1,300 households spend third night without power

Intense storm conditions, including powerful rains, gusts and hail, knocked down trees and infrastructure on Sunday, leading to outages in more than 200,000 households at peak.

By
October 28, 2015 01:28
Lightning strikes over the skyline of Tel Aviv during a rain storm

Lightning strikes over the skyline of Tel Aviv during a rain storm. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Two-and-a-half days after heavy winds and precipitation battered electricity lines and caused mass outages, some 1,300 households were still without power on Tuesday evening, the Israel Electric Corporation confirmed.

Intense storm conditions, including powerful rains, gusts and hail, knocked down trees and infrastructure on Sunday, leading to outages in more than 200,000 households at peak – most heavily impacting Sharon region communities Ra’anana, Kfar Saba, Herzliya and Netanya.

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While that number fell to about 50,000 on Monday morning and then to 8,000 on Tuesday morning, 1,300 households still remained without electricity for at least 24 hours on Tuesday evening, the IEC said.

In a scathing letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and State Comptroller Joseph Shapira, acting Ramat Hasharon Mayor Shira Avin demanded immediate answers.

“The fact that at the end of two days from the moment of the power outage flow has still not resumed to homes in entire neighborhoods, this has the intensity of a strategic terrorist attack – that even our enemies do not succeed in implementing,” Avin wrote Monday night.

The mayor demanded a thorough investigation of both the IEC’s management and the company’s workers’ union, describing the circumstances as a “serious scandal.”

The mayors of Ra’anana and Kfar Saba sent a joint letter to Netanyahu on Monday as well, emphasizing how vulnerable people, such as the ill, the elderly and children, as well as business owners, have suffered from the prolonged lack of electricity.



“It cannot be that in an extreme weather situation Israel transforms into a third-world country,” Mayors Ze’ev Bielski and Yehuda Ben-Hamo wrote.

Bielski and Ben-Hamo demanded an investigative committee examine the crisis.

Since Sunday, the electricity sector’s powers-that-be have been playing a blame game as to who is responsible for the failure to expedite the repairs.

On Sunday evening, the IEC’s management turned to the National Labor Court after finding that, pursuant to instructions from the IEC Workers’ Union, some employees were not working according to an emergency schedule. The court ordered employees to do so.

During a meeting at the IEC’s Ramat Hasharon control room Tuesday, Steinitz emphasized the serious nature of the outages and the suffering of citizens.

“What adds to this gravity is the difficult feeling that not everything was done, that this was an error corrected by the intervention of the management,” Steinitz said. “The extent of the damage is probably the largest in the country’s history. This is a very unusual event in terms of wind strength and transmission collapse. The event has been greatly reduced in its scope, and the company is making every effort so that this evening there will be no more disconnected homes.”

Steinitz added that he has ordered the creation of an investigative committee, chaired by ministry director-general Shaul Meridor and with the collaboration of all relevant parties.

“Even if other Western countries have events in which electricity and water disconnections occur, this is no consolation,” he said. “The aim is to provide service that is better and more efficient than the norm in other Western countries.”

MK Karin Elharar, chairwoman of the Knesset State Control Committee, on Tuesday demanded the clearance of trees that could threaten high-voltage power lines, to be performed jointly by the IEC, the Agriculture Ministry and the Energy Ministry.

“We have to find solutions not just for the current storm, but for the entire winter that is coming upon us,” she said.

At the State Control Committee meeting, IEC CEO Ofer Bloch apologized to customers, stressing that the company is “making every effort to restore power as soon as possible. “The event began with more than 200,000 disconnected customers and 340 detached high-voltage lines – an unprecedented event in Israel’s history,” he said.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Public Utility Authority said its officials would be examining the possibility of increasing compensation amounts for customers cut off from electricity during the storm. Today, compensation is provided at fixed rates for customers who lose power for at least 24 consecutive hours in a one-time event or for 48 hours cumulatively over the course of a year, the PUA said.

The PUA pledged to probe the conduct of the IEC, as well as consider imposing high fines on the company. PUA representatives intend to present their findings to the interministerial committee led by the Energy Ministry director-general.

Greenpeace representatives said they arrived at a school in the Sharon region on Tuesday with solar-powered charging devices for students, parents and teachers, also circulating among homes to connect residents to power. “Even during the winter, a solar system can supply the basic needs of every family,” the group said.

The storm is the result of an upper air trough accompanied by a Red Sea trough in its lower levels, Dr. Amos Porat, head of the Climate Department at the Israel Meteorological Service, explained on Sunday. A meteorological trough is an elongated region that features low atmospheric pressure, as opposed to a ridge, which features high atmospheric pressure.

While weather events featuring such intense rains, winds and hail are not routine for October, Porat stressed that similar storms have occurred during this month in 1984, 1987 and 1997, while heavy hail hit the central Coastal Plain in October 2002 and heavy rain fell in the east of the country, accompanied by hail in Jerusalem, in October 2004.

Since the beginning of the storm, rains have been characterized by strong bursts, causing large differences in local rain amounts among nearby cities, Porat explained on Tuesday.

That day, for example, Kfar Shmaryahu received 39 mm. of rain while only 2 mm. accumulated in nearby Kfar Hayarok, Porat said, citing IMS data.

Over the past two days, the Coastal Plain and the Shfela region received 15 to 50 mm., while much more was measured elsewhere - such as 70 mm. in one area of the Carmel region and 91 mm. and 94 mm. in two areas near Gaza.

Relatively small amounts of rain accumulated in the northern and central mountains, although the Gilboa and Beit She’an Valley regions received 25-40 mm. About 10-20 mm. fell in most of the Negev and the Arava, with some points receiving 30 mm. or more.

For Wednesday, the IMS predicts occasional showers accompanied by thunderstorms from the North to the northern Negev, with unseasonably low temperatures and a risk of flash floods in the eastern and southern wadis.

On Thursday, however, the rain is expected to gradually weaken. For Friday, the IMS forecasts partly cloudy conditions with a chance of occasional showers from the North to the northern Negev until noon, and a slight rise in temperatures.

Clear to partly cloudy skies and an additional rise in temperatures are expected on Saturday.

Globes contributed to this report.


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