Winter storm blows in, bringing dust, pollution, and rain
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Winter storm blows in, bringing dust, pollution, and rain

Sea of Galilee closed to swimmers due to windy weather; Environmental Protection Ministry warns of poor air quality caused by grime swept in from northern Egypt

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: People walk in the rain in the northern Israeli city of Sefad, on a stormy winter day, December 9, 2019. (David Cohen/ Flash90)
Illustrative: People walk in the rain in the northern Israeli city of Sefad, on a stormy winter day, December 9, 2019. (David Cohen/ Flash90)

A winter storm hit Israel on Wednesday, bringing a drop in temperatures and rainfall that broke a spell of unseasonably warm weather.

The rain, which began falling in the north, was expected to spread to the rest of the country during the day. More stormy weather, including thunder and hail, was predicted for the coming days along with a sharp drop in temperatures.

Temperatures for Jerusalem were forecast to be 13° degrees Celsius (55.4 Fahrenheit), a drop of around four degrees from the day before. In Tel Aviv, the temperature was expected to be 17°C, 14°C in Haifa, just 9°C in the northern city of Sefad, and 23°C in the southern port city of Eilat.

Due to the windy conditions, the Kinneret Authority closed all of the beaches around the Sea of Galilee. In the past, there have been fatal incidents of swimmers — in particular those using flotation devices — being swept out to sea on what is Israel’s largest freshwater lake.

People swim in the Sea of Galilee in the northern city of Tiberias, on May 3, 2019. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Hiking trails in areas around dry riverbeds, which are likely to rapidly fill with rain water, were also closed by parks authorities, especially river beds close to the Dead Sea region, which are notorious for the speed and volume of water that can quickly flow through them.

The Environmental Protection Ministry warned that, due to the winds, there would be high levels of pollution until the afternoon, caused by dust blown in from Egypt. The pollution was expected to hit most areas of the country.

“With the spread south of rain, there will be gradual improvement in the air quality in all areas except the Negev and Arava, where the pollution will continue to be predominantly high,” the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry advised those with health issues, such as heart and lung diseases, old people, young children, and pregnant women, to avoid physical exertion out of doors.

“The healthy population is recommended to reduce strenuous exercise,” the ministry said.

A boat that was apparently blown out to sea washed up on a beach in Ashdod, the Ynet news website reported.

Police sappers searched the boat to make sure it was not a booby-trapped craft from the Gaza Strip, and discovered that it was Israeli-owned. The owners were informed of the incident.

In Jerusalem, winds were expected to reach 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour, and some 40 millimeters of rain were predicted to fall by Thursday, Channel 12 television news reported. In preparation, the municipality ordered additional street cleaning and the collection of garbage and fallen leaves to ensure that drains remain unblocked, as well as taking other precautions aimed at making the city safe.

The cold snap was forecast to ease off by Saturday.

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