More than 30,000 Israeli households still without power, 36 hours after storm

On Monday night power outages were concentrated in Ra'anana and Netanya.

Lightning strikes over the skyline of Tel Aviv during a rain storm (photo credit: REUTERS)
Lightning strikes over the skyline of Tel Aviv during a rain storm
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A day-and-a-half after raging winds, hailstones and intense rains pounded the country's power lines, some 33,000 households were still without electricity on Monday evening.
"IEC workers continue to repair the weather to repair the weather damages to the electricity network, in the cities of Ra'anana and Netanya," a statement from the IEC said. "Reinforcement teams from the Jerusalem and Haifa districts arrived to the area to help fix the damages as soon as possible."
As of Monday at about 5:30 p.m., about 300 power lines were still damaged, with thousands of wires torn, according to the IEC. Numbers of households without power dropped from about 50,000 in the morning to 33,000 by evening, and narrowing down from the entire Sharon region, Netanya and Petah Tikvah to primarily Ra'anana and Netanya.
Although the direct cause of the mass outages may have been the brutal impact of Sunday’s unusually strong storm conditions, the electricity sector’s powers-that-be continued to play the blame game on Monday as to who was responsible for the failure to expedite the repairs.
On Sunday evening, an IEC spokeswoman said management had turned to the Labor Court after discovering that, pursuant to instructions from the IEC Workers’ Union, its employees were not working according to proper emergency procedures. IEC management argued that a failure to work comes at the expense of tens of thousands of customers. In response, the court ordered employees to follow emergency procedures and work as scheduled.
In an interview on Channel 2 on Monday night, National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz stressed that in such a serious situation, “there is no place or justification for games, strikes or sanctions."
"You cannot run campaigns at the expense of citizens on such critical subjects," he said, noting that at the peak of the outages, some 200,000 households lacked power.
"The chairman of the Workers’ Union made a big mistake," Steinitz continued. "As for the IEC, we are on our way to reform. I hope that in the morning there will be no houses left without power and we can investigate the event."
Earlier on Monday, Ofer Bloch, the CEO of the IEC, told Army Radio that this scale of outages was "unusual" and blamed some of the company's employees for improper conduct.
"The workers who were on the ground worked long and very hard," Bloch said. "There were a number of places where we felt that everything was done quickly as we want to occur. At certain points, the Workers’ Union decided not to fully obey my orders."
Workers’ Union chairman MIko Tzarfati, on the other hand, told Army Radio that the workers were not to blame.
"It's just like what happened to the soldiers in the Second Lebanon War – because they did not invest in the IDF, they blamed the soldiers. It's the same thing here," Tzarfati said. "When someone causes the system to collapse, he should not come and blame the employees."
During a session of the Knesset's "Special Committee to Discuss the National Authority for Urban Renewal Bill," committee chairman MK Eli Chen (Kulanu) stressed that "with all due respect there is no place for sanctions during an hour of emergency."
IEC chairman Yiftah Ron-Tal, meanwhile, apologized to customers, also blaming the Workers’ Union for "making a mistake [Sunday]."
Calling the storm "unusual," Ron-Tal said that the company's elders cannot even recall a similar storm that caused such great damage to the country's high voltage lines. The IEC chairman called for comprehensive reform of Israel's electricity sector, ensuring that the authority over power generation and distribution is in the hands of the National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry rather than an independent regulator.
"Decentralization of powers cannot create a satisfactory situation," he said, noting that today, the Public Utility Authority sees the IEC as the "enemy."
Dr. Amit Mor, CEO of the Eco Energy consulting firm, on the other hand, stressed the importance of maintaining an independent PUA. Subjecting the authority to a ministry's rule would be "nothing less than a blow to democracy," he argued, adding that no country in the Western World operates in such a manner.
Orit Farkash-Hacohen, the chairwoman of the PUA. likewise responded that the PUA is "not the enemy of the IEC." As it stands, she explained, the authority serves as a buffer, to maintain consumer welfare while promoting economic development.
In an Economic Affairs Committee meeting on Monday, chairman MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) also addressed the effects of the storm on the electricity network, calling the situation "inconceivable."
"It could be that everyone is right – the management, the union – but we don't have that privilege when thousands of citizens of Israel, which pretends to be a developed country, are disconnected from power in a state that is run like a third world country," Cabel said.
As of Monday night, the IEC continued to apologize to customers, reiterating that workers were doing everything in their power to fix the glitches still affecting the network.
The ongoing 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.
Although lacking the intensity of Sunday's conditions, rains continued on intermittently a local level on Sunday, and were expected to persist until Thursday or Friday, according to IMS forecasts.
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.
For Tuesday, the IMS predicted occasional showers accompanied by isolated thunderstorms from the North to the northern Negev, with a slight drop in temperatures and a risk of flash floods in the eastern and southern wadis.
The IMS maintained similar forecasts for Wednesday and Thursday – occasional showers with isolated thunderstorms once again in the same regions, with the same flash flood warnings and unseasonable cool.
By Friday, the IMS forecasted partly cloudy conditions with a chance of isolated showers until the afternoon, and a slight rise in temperatures.