Israelis used a record amount of electricity on Sunday, August 13, 2023, as the country sweltered under a heatwave that saw temperatures rise above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in some areas. According to the Independent System Operator for the electricity industry, known by its Hebrew acronym MEKOROT, electricity usage peaked at 15,690 megawatts at 2:53 p.m., surpassing the previous record of 15,384 megawatts set on July 25. The demand was met by a combination of local production and imports from neighboring countries, mainly Egypt and Jordan.
The high electricity consumption was driven by the widespread use of air conditioners, fans, refrigerators, and other cooling devices. The Israel Electric Corporation (IEC), the state-owned utility company, urged the public to conserve energy and avoid using high-power appliances such as ovens, washing machines, and dishwashers during peak hours. The IEC also warned of possible power outages due to the overload on the grid.
Heatwave expected to last until Wednesday
The heatwave that hit Israel on Sunday was caused by a low-pressure system over the eastern Mediterranean that brought hot and dry air from Africa. The Meteorological Service issued a heat stress warning for most parts of the country, advising people to stay indoors, drink plenty of water, and avoid unnecessary physical activity. The elderly, children, and people with chronic diseases were especially advised to take precautions.
The hottest places in Israel on Sunday were the Dead Sea area and the Arava desert in the south, where temperatures reached 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit). In Jerusalem, the mercury climbed to 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit), while in Tel Aviv it was 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit). In Eilat, the southernmost city on the Red Sea coast, it was 43 degrees Celsius (109 degrees Fahrenheit).
The heatwave is expected to last until Wednesday, August 16, 2023, when a slight drop in temperatures is forecast. However, the Meteorological Service said that the weather will remain hot and dry until the end of the week, with no sign of rain or relief.
Heatwave sparks fires and health problems
The extreme heat also sparked several fires across Israel on Sunday, some of which threatened residential areas. Firefighters battled a blaze that broke out near Kibbutz Nir Am in the northern Negev, which forced the evacuation of some residents. Another fire erupted near Kibbutz Lahav in the south Hebron Hills, where dozens of dunams of forest were burned. A third fire was reported near Moshav Talmei Yosef in the Eshkol Regional Council, close to the border with Gaza.
The heatwave also caused health problems for many people who suffered from dehydration, heat stroke, and exhaustion. Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency service, said that it treated 182 people for heat-related conditions on Sunday, including 25 who fainted and 12 who were hospitalized in serious condition.