Israel bakes as temperature climbs to near-record 49.9°C at biblical Sodom

Heat hits 40°C in Tel Aviv, even higher near Dead Sea; heat wave blamed for massive wave of brushfires

Young children play in the splash fountain at Teddy Park in Jerusalem as temperatures soar in a nationwide heat wave on July 17, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Young children play in the splash fountain at Teddy Park in Jerusalem as temperatures soar in a nationwide heat wave on July 17, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A heat wave that struck Israel Wednesday sent temperatures soaring to near-record breaking heights.

The highest temperature in the country was recorded on the southern shores of the Dead Sea, near the site of Biblical Sodom, where the mercury hit 49.9° Celsius (122° Fahrenheit), a record for the spot.

The sweltering temperature was only a few degrees shy of the highest-ever temperature recorded in the country, 54°C (129°F) in June 1942 at Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi in the northern Jordan Valley.

In Tel Aviv, the heat reached 40°C (104°F) at 11 a.m., but humidity was mercifully low at 20 percent. While temperatures dropped to a more humane 33°C (91°F) in the afternoon, humidity soared to 75%, making it feel hotter than in the morning.

Temperatures in Jerusalem hit 38°C (100°F), compared to about 28°C (82°F) on Monday. Haifa saw temperatures of 35°C (95°F), and Beersheba 42°C (108°F).

A Tel Aviv beach on July 17, 2019. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Rescue services said at least 140 people were treated by emergency crews for heat-related symptoms throughout the day.

The heat was also blamed for starting a massive wave of fires nationwide, burning down homes in central Israel and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of Israelis. Only a few people were lightly hurt, mostly from smoke inhalation.

Firefighters try to extinguish a brush fire near Moshav Aderet, July 17, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

In Tel Aviv, the municipality asked organizers of a hotly anticipated concert by pop crooner Omer Adam to lower the cost of water bottles from NIS 10 shekels to NIS 6 in order to encourage the over 40,000 expected concert-goers to stay hydrated.

The production company refused, leading the city to order police to allow fans to enter the concert venue at Hayarkon Park with water bottles brought from outside the venue, a rare feat.

The heat wave broke by nightfall, and meteorologists predict the country will return to seasonal temperatures by the weekend.

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