Israelis woke up Wednesday to Day 2 of the worst smoggy haze recorded during the month of September in Israel in the past 75 years. In fact, the level of pollution in the air registered at 140 times the “normal” level, according to Hebrew-language broadcast media on Tuesday.
Worse, locals are being warned it’s not going to get any better, at least until the weekend and possibly right into Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, which starts Sunday night.
The heavy dust-sand-smog settled down on the Middle East early Tuesday morning and simply hasn’t budged, moving in from across the north in Iraq and Syria.
Usually sand storms in Israel are intense, but brief, coming in from the Egyptian Sahara in the south.
A warm current of air is complicating matters, stretching from Saudi Arabia to the eastern Mediterranean, colliding with this smog cloud and spiking temperatures over 100 degrees Farenheit according to meteorologists. Due to the lack of any strong winds, conditions are not likely to improve until next week.
The presence in the air of toxic particles and pollutants dragged along with the cloud and combined with the intense heat, are making it very difficult for many people to breathe.
Meteorologists have issued a heat warning for the entire country, lasting from 9 am to 9 pm on Wednesday. In particular, the valleys and eastern parts of the country were warned there are likely to be especially high temperatures.
Visibility throughout Israel had already dropped Tuesday to approximately a mile or less (just over a kilometer). Average visibility for buildings is generally eight to 10 kilometers. In the valley areas smog and fog can be especially dense, particularly at night. Drivers are warned to be on guard and to drive slowly with hazard lights through valleys with narrow or less-traveled roads.
Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry has ordered schools to cancel all outdoor activities and school trips. The ministry is also suggestion all class recess period be held indoors and all gym classes be held in closed gymnasiums.
Most Israelis already “know the drill” and upon rising Tuesday morning, took one look and closed all the windows in their homes to try and minimize the coating of dust and sand that inevitably creeps in, no matter what.
Israeli health officials are also advising anyone with heart and lung conditions, as well as anyone with breathing problems (such as asthma, COPD, emphysema, etc), pregnant women, the elderly and the very young to stay indoors as well.Hana Levi Julian