(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) After meteorological reports on Tuesday confirmed that Israel is in the grips of a sandstorm of unprecedented scale, new forecasts on Wednesday show that the storm may not clear until Rosh Hashanah.
Major sandstorms are typical in the spring, but on Tuesday, Israel and its neighboring nations woke up to the heaviest September sandstorm in 15 years. In fact, according to the Israel Meteorological Service, such high levels of sand have not been noted in the 75 years since the weather has been officially recorded.
Naturally, air pollution levels soared. Jerusalem had the dubious honor of registering the worst air quality in the nation, with pollution levels 173 times higher than average. Afula in northern Israel had air 60 times more polluted than average, while Eilat saw levels that were 33 times higher.
The thick sand, which began as a storm in Syria, came hand in hand with oppressive temperatures. A heat wave hovered over the hillier regions and central Israel, and the coast was hot and steamy, with humidity of over 85 percent.
The weather conditions caused hundreds of cases of respiratory difficulty. Magen David Adom paramedics treated 255 people who had trouble breathing, while the emergency room at Rebecca Sieff Hospital in Safed treated more than 30 patients for respiratory trouble. The emergency room at Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot also treated 20 percent more patients than usual for breathing difficulties.
The weather also caused local flight disruptions. Israeli airlines announced that all Tuesday morning flights had been canceled because of the dust, and some flights continue to be cancelled on Wednesday as well.
Eitan Mazeh, a weather quality forecaster in the Environmental Protective Minister, told Yedioth Ahronoth that improvement in the air quality will be slow.
"This started in northeast Syria. Strong winds created massive dust clouds and the air flow was in our direction. These are enormous dust clouds. Now we're expecting a very slow decline of these dust concentrations because the winds are not changing radically," he said.