Israelis Warned to Stay Indoors as Sandstorm Continues for Second Day

Environmental Protection Ministry renews health warning for seniors, kids, pregnant women and heart patients.

Olivier Fittousi

A sandstorm that immersed Israel and the Middle East entered its second day on Wednesday.

The Environmental Protection Ministry renewed its health warning, urging Israelis against strained physical activity due to the high concentration of dust particles that remained in the air. Seniors, young children and pregnant women, as well as those suffering from heart or lung issues, were advised to stay indoors.  

In Jerusalem, where the concentration of dust particles was the highest in the country on Tuesday, dropped significantly, from 5,000-7,000 micrograms per cubic meter to less than 1,000. Nevertheless, the dust levels still pose a health risk.

According to the Associated Press, Egypt closed four ports in the Suez provice due to poor visibility as a result of the storm.

Israir and Arkia cancelled Wednesday morning's flights within Israel for the same reason.  The airlines planned to renew services at 11 A.M. and 1:30 P.M. respectively should the weather change.

Professor Daniel Rosenfeld, a climate expert at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, pointed to the rarity of the sandstorm.

"I don't remember a time when such a large quantity of dust arrived from the direction if Syria, all without powerful winds," he said. "The major dust storms usually arrive in the end of winter from North Africa, and are accompanied by strong winds." Rosenfeld noted that scientists cannot explain the phenomenon at this point, but hypothesized that it might be linked to changes in farming in Syria since the start of the civil war.

People visit the Kinneret during a sandstorm, September 8, 2015.
Gil Eliahu
Nir Keidar
Ilan Assayag

Wednesday was expected to be unseasonably hot in Israel's hills and interior, with high humidity along the coast. Thursday will be slightly cooler, with a lower heat stress index.