Eilat Hit With Major Winter Storm, Long Before Winter Begins

YERUSHALAYIM -
A man holds an umbrella to protect himself from the rain in downtown Jerusalem on October 27, 2015, during the first rain of the upcoming winter. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
A man holds an umbrella to protect himself from the rain in downtown Yerushalayim on Thursday, during the first rain of the upcoming winter. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

It barely rains in Eilat – but when it rains, it pours, as the city received the brunt of the first major rain of the fall season. Highways, airports and local streets were closed as heavy rains hit the region, with numerous streets collapsing, cars stuck in mud piles, blackouts, and other weather-related phenomena that would be more at home in the Golan than in Israel’s southernmost city.

Rains began in northern Israel Thursday afternoon and gradually drifted south, mostly targeting coastal areas. Ben Gurion Airport was closed for a short period Thursday evening due to inclement weather, with one Easyjet flight from London forced to stop in Cyprus because the airport was unapproachable. Rain strengthened as it approached the Negev, with streams overflowing their banks.

But it was for Eilat that the storm reserved its fury. Heavy rain fell throughout the night, leading to the near-complete shutdown of the hotel district, and shutting down traffic at the city’s airport. What air traffic is able to enter the area is landing at the Ovda air field, about 25 kilometers outside the city. Numerous electric poles collapsed due to high winds, and several streets collapsed as well, including Police Square, at the center of the city.

Much of the downtown area is currently impassable, and tourists who had been planning to leave Eilat for the center of the country in time for Shabbos are apparently going to have to remain in town until at least Saturday night. Between 5 p.m. Thursday and 5 a.m.Friday, 32 mm of rain had fallen in the city, weather officials said – a one-day record for rainfall, and more than the average 28 mm the city usually gets the entire year, with the storm’s intensity much more appropriate for January than for five days after the end of Sukkos.

The rain is expected to clear out from Eilat and the rest of the country during the day Friday, with partly cloudy and pleasant conditions for Shabbos. However, the rain will likely return Sunday, and continue on and off throughout the coming week. Far cooler temperatures are expected.