The rainy season officially has begun in Israel, with snow falling on the Hermon mountain and streets in Jerusalem flooded.
November was almost totally dry, and special prayers for rain have been inserted Prime Minister Netanyahu daily prayers because 30 days have gone by without precipitation since Jews in Israel began the usual request for precipitation beginning two weeks after Shemini Azereth-Simchat Torah.
Outside of Israel, Jews began adding the request on Wednesday, December 4, coincidentally when rain began falling in some parts of Israel before spreading today.
The Kinneret, which could reach flood levels this year, rose for the first time Thursday after having fallen to 2.6 meters, or 102 inches, below the level at which the Degania dam would be opened to prevent flooding in Tiberias and surrounding areas.
The official forecast calls for scattered showers to continue through Sunday.
A massive “derecho” collection of several thunderstorms packing gusts of up to 100 miles an hour along a span of 240 miles is in its early stages of formation as storms roll eastward from the Midwest and are expected to bring flooding to the New York and New England area.
The word “derecho” is Spanish for “straight,” characterizing the straight-line winds that are forecast to devastate areas where 20 percent of American until Friday.
The potentially massive storm system is a collection of storms that join together, creating a potentially deadly blow from Chicago to Baltimore and possibly into Philadelphia. High winds and heavy rains are predicted for the New York area, particularly eastern Long Island, and along the New England coast.
Last year, a derecho smacked into 11 states and Washington, killing 13 people, downing trees and causing power blackouts and $1 billion in damage.
The storm is 240 miles wide and is expected to travel 50 miles, starting with thunderstorm Wednesday afternoon and evening in northern Illinois, according to AccuWeather.
Tornados are possible.
If the thunderstorms connect, as expected, the system will be in the form of a bow that will develop into a derecho.
One of the worst facets of the derecho is the surprise factor.
Accu Weather advised, “If you will be out and about or have any plans Wednesday afternoon through the night, you will need to pay special attention to the weather as this could be a particularly dangerous situation…
“Keep in mind that lightning is one of Mother Nature’s most dangerous killers. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning, even if the sun is still shining.”
“It’s a pretty high threat,” said Bill Bunting, operations chief at the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. “We don’t want to scare people, but we want them to be aware.”
The storms will move so fast that “by the time you see the dark sky and distant thunder you may have only minutes to get to safe shelter,” Bunting added.
The derecho is not expected to be as savage as previous ones that hit the United States last year, in 2003 and 2006, but damage and flooding might be more extensive.
The “best case” scenario I that the thunderstorms will not connect. “It’s like predicting a large tornado is going to happen. No one can do that. The only thing we can do is say conditions are favorable for one to happen,” said MSNBC meteorologist Bill Karins.
As readers may have heard, Israel (along with other countries in the Middle East) has been experiencing unusually stormy weather this last week with high winds and heavy rains. The more unpleasant aspects of these comparatively rare events have included disruptions to the transport system and homes affected by flooding, with the IDF’s search and rescue teams being called in to evacuate people trapped by flood waters both in Israel and in the PA-controlled areas.
The weather system culminated with much anticipated snow in Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and many of the higher areas throughout Israel – including the Negev desert – causing great excitement in a country where this is a fairly rare occurrence. Equally exciting has been the dramatic rise in the water level of the Sea of Galilee, which climbed by almost 70 cms between the storm’s beginning last Friday and its subsidence on Thursday.
The short film below, made by Oz Segev of Ma’ale Gamla on Monday morning, shows some of the swollen streams of the south and central Golan Heights which all drain into the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). In order of appearance the film shows the Daliyot stream, the Yehudia stream, the Meshushim stream, the Jordan Park junction at the top of the lake, the upper Meshushim stream, the Aiyt waterfall, the Bnei Israel reservoir and a view from Ma’ale Gamla.
The Kinneret rose another 14 centimeters in the past 24 hours, and 70 centimeters over the past 6 days. It’s expected to go up another 10 centimeters over the next few days.
Currently the Kinneret is 211.20 meters below sea level, and at it’s highest level since 2007.
Meanwhile, Thursday’s snowstorm is being touted as the worst (or best) snowstorm Jerusalem has seen in 20 years, with approximately 6 inches of snow sticking on the ground, while in Hebron, the snow reached more than a foot high.
It starts to rain in Israel, if we are lucky, some time in late October or November. If we are less blessed, it will start in December. January sees rainfall, as does February. By March, we know we’re near the end and by April it’s over. May, June, July, August, September (and usually October) – no rain – often not a single time, once in a while there’ll be a short rain – sometimes not even that.
The winter in Israel is spent watching the level of the Sea of Galilee – as it rises, we know we’ll have water for the coming dry months. Early in the winter, meteorologists will predict a wet winter, a dry one, a warm one, a cold one. Sometimes, you don’t even hear their prediction. This has been a good year – so far…though much is still needed to take us out of the perpetual drought we have been in for over a decade. In all of the years I have been in Israel, not once has the level of the Sea of Galilee reached over capacity. There are provisions for this happening – huge flood gates that can be opened, sending water down through the Jordan Valley and into the dying Dead Sea.
Last year was adequate – this year, we still wait to hear. The winter is probably about half-over but we think in terms of days. In the last few days, the Sea of Galilee has risen an amazing 22 centimeters – I don’t know if you can imagine what that means. Yesterday it rained; today it is raining. Tomorrow and the next day, they are predicting more rain and even snow in some areas.
People are complaining about floods and traffic and the cold and through it all, there is this amazing joy. People will say, “it’s miserable out there, thank God.” Each drop is a blessing, a gift. In Israel, from a young age, we teach our children two things about water – don’t waste it, and always carry it with you. My children go with bottles of water – the heat in the summer can be very dangerous and they need to carry water with them. They shut the water when they soap themselves up in the shower; they shut the water when they are brushing their teeth. You don’t waste water in Israel. If you peel potatoes into a pot of water so they don’t turn colors – you walk outside and pour the pot of water into the garden.
As we drove into Jerusalem today, the water was flowing over the hills, pouring down the rocks, forming a river on the side of the road. Lauren tried to get a picture but the camera focused on the drops on the window instead. “Open the window,” said Davidi.
Both my daughter-in-law Lauren and I thought that was a bad idea – she’d be soaked, as would the car! But a neighbor managed to capture the power of the water. This is today’s blessing from God to a land that He loves, and a land that loves Him.