Historic rains filled the once dry Ayalon River bed that runs through Tel Aviv, flooding highways, homes, and public buildings. Overnight, the Sea of Galilee or Lake Kinneret rose 22 centimeters and water reservoirs near the Golan Heights filled to capacity, prompting Israel’s Park and Nature Authority to peg the storm a “water celebration.”
But urban dwellers aren’t celebrating at all. Sections of the central arteries of Tel Aviv, Ayalon Highway and Highway 1, were closed to traffic in both directions and all four of the city’s railway stations are closed, reports Haaretz. Areas north of the Mediterranean city have been swamped as well and authorities are bracing for the real possibility that both the Ayalon and Yarkon rivers will burst their banks.
It has been one of the wettest winters on record for Israel, but according to local reports, rains were fiercest on Tuesday morning and afternoon, and social media has been flooded with images of water inundating coffee shops and other public buildings.
Traffic in the center of Tel Aviv was heavily congested and police are urging drivers to stay home. At least three people have been killed in weather-related vehicular accidents already.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said the municipality is preparing for an emergency situation if the two rivers overflow. Funds will be made available to help evacuate residents as necessary and to clear their homes of floodwater.
Power outages were reported throughout Tel Aviv and several telephone lines are on the verge of collapse; even small airports have had to divert flights as a result of the storm.
Trees have been uprooted and many businesses shut down as rain continues to pummel the drenched city.
While the influx of water is seen by many as a godsend for the dry country, floods typically have a deleterious affect on topsoil, and the Yarkon River – Israel’s longest coastal river – has a dubious history of intense pollution.
Like Hurricane Sandy in the northeast USA, the flood in Tel Aviv underscores the importance for better disaster preparedness. Because thanks to climate change, there will be more to come.
Image of 2010 flood in Israel by ChameleonsEye, Shutterstock