A tornado and other stormy weather wreaked havoc across Israel on Tuesday and weather-related accidents caused injuries to at least 70 people.
The tornado and accompanying heavy storms raged across the Western Galilee, and hailstones the size of ping pong balls were reported.
A total of 70 people, including 20 children, were admitted to the Nahariya hospital in the wake of the violent weather. Most of the patients suffered light injuries from flying objects or from road accidents. Two children, aged six and seven, suffered deep cuts in the storm.
Meteorologist Nachum Malik confirmed that the Western Galilee storm was a tornado and said it was an indication of increasingly unpredictable weather in the country.
"When this kind of phenomenon occurs over water it is called a water spout, but when it occurs over land it is called a tornado. To use military terminology, this is an escalation in terms of weather and a very rare occurrence in Israel. This is an example of how extreme the weather in Israel has become," he said.
Many Western Galilee residents reported having witnessed the actual tornado, especially in villages around Acre. Mohammed Zavidat, a resident of Jedida, said that "nothing was left. Trees were uprooted and roof shingles were flying all over. Water boilers and satellite dishes were flying around as well. It was appalling, people were really scared. We've only seen such things on television, we never thought it would happen here."
In Jedida and the surrounding area electricity was out for many hours due to damaged power lines. The wind tore off road signs along Route 70, between Jedida and Yarka, smashing them against the passing cars. Two private vehicles were overturned and residents across the entire area reported extensive damage to property and crops.
In Nahariyah, hailstones two centimeters in diameter, caused heavy damage to roofs and solar panels. Some cases of flooding were also reported. Western Galilee farmers who had been smiling in recent days, grateful for the much needed rain, lost a large part of their crops due to Tuesday's heavy hail.
Light local rain fell across the country Tuesday morning. During the rest of the day, strong south-western winds blew at up to 50-70 kph. "In southern Israel sandstorms reduced visibility to under one meter," said Malik.
In the southern resort city of Eilat, winds caused waves in Eilat Bay to reach over three meters in height. The winds uprooted a 15-meter tree, tipping it over onto two cars. Two passengers that were trapped in one of the cars were rescued by the local fire department and rushed to the nearby hospital.
A sandstorm covered roads in the Ovdat valley in 20 centimeters of sand. Drivers along the Arava highway were warned to take precautions due to similar sandstorms.
Five people were killed Sunday in the northern Israel due to flooding.
Sahar Mehamid, age 23, from Umm al-Fahm was killed in Wadi Ara. Three women from Touran, a village in the lower Galilee, were killed in a car accident after driving into pooled water in the road. Iyad Taha, a 27-year-old Palestinian from the village of Bet Anan near Ramallah, drowned in the flood.
On Wednesday, the forecast calls for rain and thunderstorms from the north to the central Negev. Temperatures will drop and there is a fear of dangerous flooding. The rain is expected to continue on Thursday. On Friday, temperatures will rise and on Saturday temperatures will continue to rise and the humidity will drop.
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