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Welcome rains arrive in Israel as threat of sixth year of drought looms

More than a half-inch of rain fell on Kibbutz Ayalon in the Western Galilee in just one hour, and the Mount Hermon site in the Golan was closed on Thursday due to rainfall and heavy fog.

People walk in central Jerusalem on an especially wet day on Dec. 27, 2018. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
People walk in central Jerusalem on an especially wet day on Dec. 27, 2018. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

A massive storm front arrived in Israel on Thursday, as heavy downpours spread from the north to the southern coastal plan, helping to abate a six-year drought that has severely depleted the Kinneret.

The storm system was accompanied by a significant drop in temperatures and risk of flooding in the Judean Desert, the Dead Sea region and the Jordan Valley. Authorities are warning travelers to beware of flash floods in those areas, and are issuing an advisory to avoid driving on flooded roads, to adjust driving speeds and to maintain safe trailing distance on the road.

More than a half-inch of rain fell on Kibbutz Ayalon in the Western Galilee in just one hour, and the Mount Hermon site in the Golan was closed on Thursday due to rainfall and heavy fog, with snow expected to fall.

Heavy rains were also recorded throughout Judea and Samaria, and the Sharon and Dan regions. Hailstorms were recorded in Caesarea, Pardes Hanna-Karkur, and other parts of the Sharon region.

The abundance of water was good news for the Kinneret, otherwise known as the Sea of Galilee, which has suffered through a six-year drought that has brought water levels so low that Israel’s largest body of fresh water is no longer being pumped.

As of Thursday morning, the Kinneret had risen 4 centimeters in a week, bringing it to 214.54 meters below sea level, but still 1.54 meters below the lower red line. That level remains below what can be used for drinking water and a mere .33 meters from the black line—a historic low below which it is believed that the Kinneret will become unpotable.

Israel has built two desalination plants on Israel’s coast, where processed Mediterranean Sea water now provides more than 70 percent of Israel’s drinking water. In August, authorities warned that if heavy rainfall does not arrive in Israel this winter, water rationing may be put into place.

Winds on the Mediterranean Sea were expected to reach up to 43 miles per hour on Thursday, and waves were expected to reach 11 feet high.

Though the storm is predicted to weaken and dissipate on Friday, additional rains are expected on Saturday and Sunday, to be accompanied by occasional thunderstorms.

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