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Sweltering Israel cranks up A/C, setting new electricity use record

Israel Electric Corporation says 14,089 megawatts generated at peak hours as scorcher roasts country; temperature reaches 116.6°F in one town

People enjoy a hot summer day at the Ein Lavan Spring in the Jerusalem Mountains on August 30, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
People enjoy a hot summer day at the Ein Lavan Spring in the Jerusalem Mountains on August 30, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Israel Electric Corporation reported an all-time high for electricity use on Sunday as a searing heat wave melted the country.

According to the IEC, 14,089 megawatts were generated at 2:33 p.m., breaking the previous record of 13,854 set earlier this year on May 20.

IEC CEO Ofer Bloch said in a statement that while the extreme weather conditions are testing his corporation, his employees have thus far been able to keep up with the increase demand countrywide.

The highest temperature measured Sunday was in the Lower Galilee town of Yavne’el, which reached 47°C (116.6°F). The kibbutz of Sde Eliyahu, near Beit She’an in the upper Jordan Valley, hit 46°C (114.8°F) degrees.

Other areas of the Jordan Valley, which traverses the West Bank, hit 46.2°C (115.2°F). The sweltering temperatures, while extreme, were not out of the ordinary for the area, which is known as one of the hottest places in the world.

Palestinian farmers harvest onions in Jordan Valley in the West Bank, on February 10, 2020. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

“I have lived here for more than 40 years and so have many of my neighbors. Just as people get used to the cold in cold places, here we got used to the heat. I remember one day in 2010 when it was 49°C (120.2°F),” Jordan Valley-based meteorologist Avi Stromza told Channel 12 news.

He said most residents in the area have been staying indoors, with the region’s many farmers going out to work before dawn and finishing around noon.

The mountainous Jerusalem area also sweated under 38°C (100.4°F) heat.

Temperatures were expected to hold until Monday, though Tuesday and Wednesday will see a spell of slight relief, until the heat comes back with a vengeance toward the end of the week.

The Israel Meteorological Service forecast an additional heat wave over next weekend that may send the mercury soaring even higher than it did on Sunday.

The current heat wave began on Friday, with temperatures reaching as high as 42°C (107.6°F) at Ein Gedi near the Dead Sea on Saturday and 41°C (105.8°F) in Beit Shean.

The Health Ministry issued a statement on Thursday warning of intense heat in most parts of the country from Saturday through Monday. It urged the elderly and those with health conditions to remain indoors, refrain from unnecessary physical exertion and drink lots of water.

In the statement, the Health Ministry also urged people to wear a mask and adhere to its social distancing guidelines, with the coronavirus infection rate continuing to be high.

The ministry temporarily lifted the mandatory mask rule during a significant heat wave in May, when new virus cases per day had dropped to the low dozens.

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