Winter finally arrives in Israel
Winter finally arrives in IsraelIsrael news photo: Itzik Chen

Near-hurricane force winds and heavy rains drenched Israel Sunday and Monday, dropping 20 centimeters (eight inches) of rain in the far north, more than two meters (seven feet) of snow on the upper Hermon Mountains, and light snow in parts of Jerusalem and Gush Etzion.

Video: Snow at the Har Etzion Yeshiva in Gush Etzion

The storm also caused millions of dollars of damage along the Mediterranean Coast and disrupted power after dozens of trees fell on power lines.

The snow in Jerusalem and Gush Etzion quickly disappeared after dawn and was not enough to delay school openings, but the white stuff gave residents the satisfaction of seeing snow after several months of long hot summer and rainless November.

The Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) rose by nine centimeters (over three inches) since the storm began, and the level will continue to rise as runoff reaches the lake from mountain streams. However, an accumulated shortage still leaves the Kinneret and Israel’s underground water resources seriously depleted.

More rain is expected at the end of this week, but weather forecasters say the system will be much weaker and will move out of the region by Sunday morning.

Most schools in the northern Golan Heights were closed this morning (Monday) as snow plows tried to clear the roads of up to 3.5 feet of snow that the storm system dumped on the area overnight.

In most areas from the northern border to the northern Negev, rain often fell at the rate of more than an inch an hour. 

The savage storm system weakened late Monday morning, and seasonal temperatures, under partly cloudy skies, are expected to return on Tuesday, with the possibility occasional light rain in the north.

The longer-term forecast calls for warmer than usual weather on Wednesday and Thursday followed by a sharp drop on Friday, with rain in the north and central regions and more snow on the Hermon.

The wicked winds and heavy rain ravaged the entire region, killing three people in Egypt when a factory collapsed.  In Israel, police said a Russian tourist died after he was blown into the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday. His body was washed ashore on a metropolitan Tel Aviv beach.

An ancient pier in Caesarea, north of Tel Aviv, was destroyed by the winds, which reached hurricane force of 75 miles an hour off the coast.  

Ben Gurion airport was forced to delay several incoming flights, some of which were canceled or diverted to Cyprus and Egypt.