Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Storm of the Century

On the evening of Sunday, January 17 and continuing through the next day, the Negev saw summer thunderstorms not seen in over 100 years. In one 24 hour period 6.5 inches of rain fell, more than had fallen on the Negev in preceding 10 years altogether.

The storm began as we headed back to Mitzpe Ramon from Be'er Sheva in the early evening. As we drove south the sky began to darken with clouds, and as night fell, the horizon was lit with almost continuous flashes of lightning all around us. The air began to smell of rain and suddenly it was gushing all around us. These weren't just drops but spikes of rain, long and thick and punishing as they fell. Lightning flashed all around us, as thick as a wrist before my eyes, and thunder crashed all about.

I began to fear that we might encounter a flash flood in a Wadi that would wash away the road. But the presence of a car on the road ahead of us, a bolder driver than I, gave me confidence to continue. At least he would hit the swollen Wadi first and I could stop in time from being washed away.

Fortunately, we encountered no such overflowing Wadis that night. But by the next day, drivers were not so fortunate. The road between Sde Boker and Mitzpe Ramon was flooded in many places, and in one case the rains had washed away a portion of the highway and completely crushed the guard rail at that point in the road. Several drivers were washed away and killed in the floods, and at least one driver had to be rescued from his flood-stranded truck by helicopter.

 A cloud to ground lightning strike develops over Machtesh Ramon

 The lightning illuminates the clouds and far side of the Machtesh

Climax of the stroke. The river that drains the Machtesh can be seen reflecting the stroke's light.

This cloud to cloud stroke illuminates the north face of the crater:


Stroke climax

The storm developed just 3 days after a national day of fasting and prayer to appeal to the Almighty to bring rain to a drought parched Israel.

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