A Super-rare Storm Smashed Into Israel This Weekend. Forecast: Expect More in the Future

The 2020s is shaping up to be the decade of climate change impact, and Israel began it with a bang – of thunder. The nation was shocked when two adults drowned in an elevator in Tel Aviv that shorted in a flooded basement on Saturday. Low-lying roads, some of them major arteries, became impassable as more than 20 percent of the city’s average annual precipitation fell in the space of three hours, breaking rainfall records.

Forecasters had predicted a stormy weekend and, as usual, warned Israelis to avoid trekking through riverbeds. But Tel Avivians hadn’t expected anything of such dramatic magnitude.

Though substantial "once-in-50-year" floods seem to happen in Tel Aviv roughly once every 10 years in recent decades, it is unfair to accuse the municipality of blitheness or being unprepared. Government disaster-preparedness policy everywhere must be based on probabilities and reasonability (not to mention affordability). No city can reasonably invest huge proportions of precious taxpayer resources in building expensive new drainage systems for extremely rare events.

Deer in northern Israel, Moshav OdemGil Eliahu

The probability of a such a storm striking Tel Aviv has not been high. But it has been mounting. One key problem with preparing is to know what to prepare for: we don't, not reliably. The entire region of North Africa and the Middle East is undergoing desertification yet right now, we have flooding.

– floods