Children cooling off at a Jaffa fountain, August 1, 2010
Children cooling off at a Jaffa fountain Photo by Tal Cohen
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The heat wave that began last week will continue for the next several days. Yesterday's peak temperatures - 33-34 degrees Celsius - were measured, as usual, in the Jordan Valley and in the vicinity of Eilat. Nahum Malik of the Meteo-Tech weather service said yesterday that it felt more like 48 degrees. "That's the estimate based on the American heat stress index, which takes into account factors such as temperature and humidity," Malik explained, adding that the weather pattern is normal for the season.

The perceived heat, as measured by the heat stress index, was especially high in the Galilee and on the Golan Heights, and the numbers support the perceptions. On Saturday, when the heat wave started, the mercury hit 38.7 degrees Celsius on Mt. Canaan - 8 degrees above the season average. At 5:30 A.M. yesterday the temperature at the monitoring station was 30 degrees, a near-record high for that time of day in the area. Actual temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius - and perceived temps of 47 degrees - were measured at Lake Kinneret.

Malik attributed the recent weather to very hot winds from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria, at altitudes of 900 meters, just the right height to cook the northern Galilee and Golan hills. In Jerusalem the temperature did not exceed 36 degrees, but with 40 percent humidity the usually arid area felt much hotter.

Along the coast, in Tel Aviv and Haifa, temperatures were only 2 or 3 degrees above normal, at 32 degrees Celsius, but the unusually high humidity - 70 percent during the day and 90 percent at night, drove the perceived temperature up to 40 degrees.

Yesterday's record temperatures also brought record electricity consumption, with demand reaching 11,100 megawatt at 5:30 P.M. Israel Electric Corporation supplied 10,700 mW, with private suppliers kicking in an additional 380 mW. IEC officials repeated their request to refrain from using power-hungry appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines, oven, electric burners and, yes, vacuum cleaners, during the peak early-morning and late-evening hours, and to set air-conditioner thermostats at 25 degrees.

Hundreds of thousands of laying hens, turkeys and chickens being raised for meat died as a result of overheating in coops. Losses to poultry farmers were estimated at NIS 5 million. The Israel Cattle Breeders Association reported that members are cooling down their cattle with frequent showers and running their cattle barns' cooling systems at full power every day throught the summer.

"The cattlemen work overtime to cool down their overheated cows," explained Yoav Zur, a dairy farmer from Be'er Tuvia. According to the head of the Israeli Cattle Breeders Association, Yaakov Bachar, "In the cattle barns you get an onject lesson in how the summer is coming earlier every year. In the past people began cooling the barns toward the end of June, but this year in some cowsheds intensive cooling of the cows began in May."