TEL AVIV (Feb. 25)
A new winter storm, described as the worst in many years, cut a swath of death and destruction across Israel this week.
Jerusalem was paralyzed by a record snow-fall, which forced the Knesset to postpone an important vote Tuesday.
Much of the rest of the country was immobilized by ice, snow, hail and torrential rains that blocked roads. Downed power lines could not be reached for repairs.
The storm caused at least one death. An Israel Defense Force soldier, identified as Sgt. Maj. Abed Kadder, was fatally injured when his jeep was overturned by a flash flood near Yardena, in the Beit She’an Valley. Kadder was flown to Rambam Hospital in Haifa, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Police in the Haifa area were searching Tuesday for two teen-agers who were feared to be flash-flood victims. They failed to return home after the storm struck Monday.
Weather forecasters described the latest storm as part of a meteorological phenomenon likely to continue into Wednesday or Thursday, though with diminishing vigor.
The extent of damage and destruction could not be estimated immediately because most of Galilee and the Golan Heights were isolated from the rest of the country.
Israel Radio reported a high toll of livestock. Dozens of heads of cattle were killed when the roof of a dairy collapsed under the weight of snow at Moshav Nof on the Golan Heights.
HIGHWAYS CLOSED ALL OVER
Elsewhere in the country, similar incidents claimed thousands of chickens and hundreds of acres of hothouse flowers. Fish harvests were devastated as growth ponds froze over.
Police said at least 47 main roads and highways — a record number — were closed to traffic either because of severe flooding, deep snowdrifts or damaged bridges.
They included the heavily traveled Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway. The drive normally takes 45 or 50 minutes. But many motorists caught by the storm late Monday found themselves stranded for up to seven hours.
Snow plows were unable to cope with the huge drifts while skirting around stalled buses and cars that had skidded off the icy pavement.
Air force helicopters plucked some stranded motorists from vehicles caught in floodwaters that turned large stretches of road into lakes.
In the Haifa Bay area, the navy used rubber dinghies to rescue people. The normally sluggish Kishon River overflowed its banks, putting the Kfar Ata residential and industrial area under nearly seven feet of water.
Continuous rain and runoff from the surrounding hills raised the level of Lake Kinneret faster than the open sluice gates at the entry of the Jordan River could lower it.
The town council in Tiberias and other lake shore communities prepared for record floods.
Jerusalem, probably harder hit than any of the major cities, was buried by a relentless blizzard, described as the worst since the Turks started keeping records at the turn of the century. All schools and most shops were closed.