The dense sandstorm blanketing the country with a thick yellowish-brown dust continued for a third day on Thursday, breaking electricity and air pollution records across the country.
A sharp rise in temperature on Wednesday added to the already difficult weather conditions, and the heat wave is expected to persist into the weekend even as the sand is forecast to disperse by Friday.
According to figures announced by the Israel Electric Corporation, electricity use broke an all-time record as Israelis tried to keep cool — surpassing an all-time high set on during a heatwave last month.
By Wednesday afternoon, Israelis hit a consumption record of 12,867 megawatts, up from 12,800 megawatts set during a week of soaring temperatures in August.
The Environmental Protection Ministry reported in several parts of the country that air pollution levels were at their worst in 75 years during the storm, which began on Tuesday morning.
On Tuesday, air pollution in Jerusalem were 173 times higher than average, 51 times higher than average in the Negev; and in the Galilee, 32 times higher.
The ministry on Wednesday evening re-issued its warning advising Israelis against being outside for extended periods and reminded people to avoid any excessive outdoor physical activity.
The Magen David Adom national emergency medical services reported that 632 Israelis have been treated for shortness of breath, asthma attacks and an exacerbation of existing heart conditions from the effects of the sandstorm.
The storm has been blamed for at least 12 deaths in the region as well as thousands more people being treated at hospitals, according to al-Jazeera.
Poor visibility caused by the extreme weather prompted the Israeli airline Israir to cancel all domestic flights to and from Eilat’s airport until further notice. The carrier said it would reassess weather conditions Thursday and announce when it would restart its domestic service.
Some 800 kilometers (497 miles) above the earth’s surface, NASA satellite images show Israel, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Jordan, Lebanon and parts of Syria covered in the thick, brownish-yellow fog. According to the satellite data, the dust cloud rose 600 meters (656 yards) into the air.
Meteorologists estimate the sandstorm to decrease significantly by Friday, however the unseasonably high temperatures are expected to continue throughout the weekend before dropping slightly before the start of the Jewish High Holidays on Sunday.