One reason generally given for the failure by the Axis air forces to engage, or even just recognise the start of the attack on 18 November is the weather. Violent rain storms lashed the North African coast on the days before the attack started, but they fell harder on the Axis landing grounds in the west, making operations there impossible, and in some cases drowning personnel and destroying equipment, where Wadis had been used as camp or storage sites.
While the runways got back into operation relatively quickly (they could be used on 18 November, provided care was taken), the more important impact was probably on communications, which had been completely destroyed by the floods.
The IWM photo collection has an interesting picture I came across today, showing a Blenheim IV on Gambut airfield, maybe in December or January. It shows quite well the extent of water on the field, this time of course coming from later winter storms:
The second picture shows RAF personnel dealing with the rain – myguess is that it belongs to the same time-frame:
At the start of operation CRUSADER Gambut was a major Axis landing ground, but that changed relatively quickly, and it would be June 42 before the Axis forces would conquer it again.