Tourist Tip #85 / Riders on the Storm

Israel's winter rains are no doubt a blessing, but they can also cause flash floods and pose a hazard to drivers. Make sure you are prepared before getting behind the wheel.

No tourist stay in Israel would be complete without a road trip to one of Israel's rugged national parks and stunning archaeological sites in either the Galilee or the Negev.

Still, as much fun as traveling through Israel's ancient wadis can be, during the rainy winter months they can quickly become potentially fatal water hazards. Heavy rains can quickly lead to flash floods, called sheetfonot in Hebrew, in a matter of minutes.

To help you (and hopefully your rental car) get through your trip safe and sound, read the following seven tips provided by the U.S. National Disaster Education Coalition and Israel Radio on how to act when caught in a flash flood situation.

1.    Never drive on a flooded road or bridge. If you have to, back up and try a different route. Six inches of water is enough to reach the bottom of most passenger cars and driving through water this deep is enough to cause a loss of control or stall the car. A foot of rushing water is enough to sweep away most cars.

2.    Drive your car to high ground away from streams and storm drains until the floodwaters have receded.

3.    Listen to the radio or look online for weather and traffic updates. The Israeli radio station Galgalatz (which can be heard in Tel Aviv at 91.8 FM) carries frequent weather and traffic updates in Hebrew. Israel's weather service also has daily weather forecasts and regularly updated rain radar maps in English on its website.

4.    Do not stay in your car if floodwaters surround your vehicle. If you can still safely exit it, leave your car and move immediately to higher ground on foot. Don't exit into moving water once it has reached close to six inches' depth, it will have enough force to knock you down.

5.    If your car is lifted and swept away by floodwaters, try to stay calm and wait for the vehicle to fill with water. Once the vehicle is full of water the doors will open because of the change in pressure. Hold your breath and swim to the surface.

6.    If you are swept into fast moving floodwater outside of your car, point your feet downstream. Always go over obstacles, never try to go under.

7.     If you are stranded on something above the floodwater, such as a tree or building, stay put and wait for rescue. Do not try to swim through floodwaters.

Carmel Tanaka