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The Golan Heights yesterday saw a freak amount of rain, which reached a peak level of 70 millimeters after only several hours of downfall. Only several millimeters of rain fell in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, similar to the amount measured along the coast.

Meteorologists said the deluge came from waves of cool air and rain clouds that came from Turkey and the Black Sea. The rain is expected to continue today and could cause floods in the southern areas of the Judea Desert and the Negev, as well as flooding in cities throughout Israel.

Despite the rain, hundreds of thousands of Israelis visited national parks and natural reserves over the long Rosh Hashanah weekend, reports the Israel Nature and Parks Protection Authority and the Jewish National Fund. Some 300,000 people spent the day outdoors all over the country; the most popular sites were the Ashkelon National Park, the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve and the Carmel Mountains.

It is not uncommon for the first rain to fall during September, but the amount is generally scant. By and large, serious rains only appear here around mid-October.

The rain recorded during the holiday coincided with the upcoming year's weather forecast, which predicts a rise of approximately 25 percent in rainfall, relative to the amount that fell last year.

The Water Authority said this will be a good time to reduce water consumption, because with the drop in temperatures, less water evaporates, which allows plants to survive on 20 to 30 percent less watering without damage.

The past two winters have been relatively dry, increasing Israel's water deficit to levels that water officials describe as "alarming."