JERUSALEM, Israel -- If you live in a country with year-round precipitation, it's hard to imagine what the winter rainy season brings to Israelis.
After seven consecutive winters of below-average rainfall, many are hoping -- and praying -- for abundant winter rains.
The rainy weather arrived in earnest this week, flooding streets and causing traffic accidents in northern Israel.
In Jerusalem, a storm quickly produces muddy runoff that looks like mini creeks running along the sides of the streets. On the sidewalks, bundled-up residents pick their way around puddles, struggling to keep their umbrellas from inverting.
The hardened ground, which hasn't felt rain for months, repels the water, turning dusty surfaces into thick, sticky mud.
High winds can also play havoc with roof-mounted solar panels and water tanks. Almost every home in Israel, apartment or free-standing house, uses a dude shemesh -- a solar-heated boiler system installed on the roof.
Every year, winter rains cause flash floods in the Negev and Jordan Valley as well, sometimes sweeping away vehicles trying to traverse a flooded road.
Elsewhere, poor visibility takes its toll in traffic accidents, as it did this morning.
Authorities issued flash flood warnings for the weekend. Poor visibility is being blamed for an accident in the Golan Heights, which killed a bus driver and injured 40 passengers.
Weekend forecasts call for more rain and colder-than-average temperatures and even the first snowfall on Mt. Hermon, home to the nation's only ski resort.
Thankful for the Rain
Yet with all the inconveniences, it would be hard to find an Israeli who isn't grateful for every drop of rain the winter brings.
The Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), Israel's main freshwater supply, is nearly two-and-a-half feet below the red line -- which marks the dangerously low level. The coastal aquifers are also severely depleted.
The government has been forced to ration water for agriculture and to increase the price of water for domestic use.
Despite the drought, most households have sufficient water. Summer water rationing for gardens, coupled with stiff penalties on water bills for using too much water, have helped manage the shortage overall.
Israel also recycles nearly 80 percent of its waste water and has developed phenomenal irrigation techniques, including the use of briny water for agriculture in desert areas.
In May, Israel announced its fourth desalination plant, slated to be one of the largest in the world. When that plant comes on line, desalinated water will account for a whopping 65 percent of Israel's domestic water consumption.