Sandstorm disrupts flights, brings health warnings
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Sandstorm disrupts flights, brings health warnings

Hot, dusty weather system from North Africa sweeps across Israel

During a sandstorm, a couple stand on the Mount of Olives over looking the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock, on April 1, 2013. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
During a sandstorm, a couple stand on the Mount of Olives over looking the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock, on April 1, 2013. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An unseasonably warm dust storm hit Israel on Sunday, causing high levels of air pollution and disrupting domestic air travel.

Skies turned a dusty hue of pink by mid-Sunday, as sandy air particles from a hot, dry North African weather system moved into the region, limiting visibility.

“High concentrations of air pollution, above air quality standards” are predicted, leading to a “public health concern… therefore we recommend that vulnerable populations, including people with heart and/or lung disease, the elderly, children and pregnant women, avoid strenuous physical activity,” Dr. Levona Cordoba of the Environmental Protection Ministry said in a statement.

The Airport Authority announced that the small Sde Dov airport near Tel Aviv would be closed for landings, and Arkia and Israir announced Sunday that they were rerouting their domestic flights to Ben-Gurion in response to the weather.

International flights into and out of Ben-Gurion are to continue as usual.

Although it is expected to cool Monday, the weather conditions, which can also bring sporadic rainfall and flash floods in low-lying areas, are predicted to remain through Tuesday.

The Israel Meteorological Service predicted increased winds, fog and a chance of rain overnight Sunday, with gradually reduced temperatures for Monday and Tuesday. A flash flood warning was issued for low-lying areas for Sunday evening and Monday.

Temperatures on Sunday were to hit 30°C (86°F) in Tel Aviv, 27°C (81°F) in Jerusalem, 32°C (89°F) in Beersheba and 30°C (86°F) in Eilat.

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