Cities, Farmers Estimate Damage After Fierce Rainstorm Finally Comes to an End

Storm comes at a critical period - before Christmas - and flower growers may not be able to uphold some of their commitments for the holiday.

The rainstorm that had been lashing Israel all weekend finally came to an end last night, with forecasters now saying they expect temperatures to rise both today and tomorrow.

Summing up the rainfall in Israel over the past few days, the meteorological service said yesterday that between 150mm and 220mm of rain fell in the northern mountains, more than the multiyear average for this time of the winter season. Between 120mm and 160mm fell in the north along the coastline and in the northern valleys, while the central coastline absorbed 70mm to 110mm of rainfall.

Rain clouds loom overhead in the Hula Valley Dec. 14, 2010.
Yaron Kaminsky

Much less rain, only up to 50mm, fell in Jerusalem during the storm, and no rain fell in the south at all.

In all areas except the northern mountains, rainfall for the winter season on the whole still remains lower than average.

The largest amount of rain was registered in Mitzpeh Harashim in the Galilee, which reported 210mm of rain. The rainfall still failed to significantly improve the water level in Lake Kinneret. The lake has risen by a mere 8.5cm, and the water level remains at 214.050 below sea level. Tributary streams, however, may push the level a little further up in the coming days.

The Water Authority said the lake was still several meters below the desired level.

Meanwhile, farmers continued estimating the damage caused by the storm. Haim Hadad, secretary of the Flower Growers Organization, said this morning that the storm came at a critical period - before Christmas - and flower growers may not be able to uphold some of their commitments for the holiday.

Hadad said an initial estimate shows the growers suffered damages amounting to at least NIS 20 million, but this number could rise after the official estimates are complete. Flowers grown in open areas were damaged by hail, and a number of greenhouses collapsed during the storm.

Another sector badly hurt by the storm are potato growers, whose crops were lashed by a series of sand storms in the Negev. Fruit and avocado crops also suffered in various areas around the country.

The Netanya municipality said it was concerned about the stability of the city's sandstone cliffs and that an engineer will inspect access roads to the city's beaches today. Tzion Sadeh, director of the Netanya beach administration, said it was too early to tell how badly the cliffs had been hit.

"We only managed to examine one out of 13.5 kilometers of beaches so far, and we already found a number of sinkholes," he said.

Sadeh said a 41-year-old Russian tourist, whose body was found on Sunday after he drowned off the coast, had been warned several times not to enter the water.

storm - Nir Kafri - December 14 2010
Nir Kafri

"The lifeguard spoke to him in Hebrew at first, but after he saw the guy didn't understand him he called out in both English and Russian," Sadeh explained. "The man came out of the water, but five minutes later went back in again. He was pulled toward the breakwater and managed to climb on top of it, but then a wave threw him onto the rocks."

Further south, the Rishon Letzion municipality estimates that recovering from the storm will cost the city some NIS 1.5 million. Eli Schwarzerberg, director of beaches and lakes for the city, told Haaretz he hopes that by May 2011 the city's beaches will be restored.