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The Department of Transport on Tuesday appealed for motorists and truckers to reconsider any non-essential travel in and out of the province after heavy snowfall and rain forced the closure of Van Reenen’s Pass.
“All we can say is that motorists should ease up on travel until the adverse weather conditions (compounded by snow) improve and the roads are re-opened,” Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) spokesman, Colin Govender, said.
The R617 running through Underberg and Swartberg were also closed because of snow, he said.
Heavy snowfalls have been recorded in Van Reenen, Mount West and Mooi River.
N3 Toll Concession (N3TC) spokeswoman, Andy Visser, said vehicles that had been travelling towards Van Reenen’s Pass had been diverted via the N11 (through Ladysmith and Newcastle).
“Heavy vehicles are being stacked (waiting in queues) at the Tugela Plaza, so we are not letting them go up the Pass to just get stuck,” she said.
She said almost 3 000 trucks passed through the area every day, but added that because they had only just closed the Pass there was not a “huge backlog” on the road yet. Some of the trucks travelling back towards Durban had been stacked at Harrismith, she said.
The RTI’s Zinhle Mngomezulu said the Johannesburg- and Durban-bound lanes of the N3 were jam-packed with traffic.
Pig and sheep farmer, Steve Caldecott, of Mooi River said the snow had started early this morning, and it had been “very heavy”.
Caldecott, who has lived in the town for 13 years, said it had also snowed last year at around this time, but could not say if this year’s fall was heavier or not.
“It’s only just started. We’ll see as the day goes on,” he said.
Bitterly cold temperatures and extreme weather conditions are expected to continue over most parts of the country until Friday.
The SA Weather Service reported snowfalls in Underberg and Giants Castle on Tuesday morning.
More heavy snowfall is expected on Tuesday night and Wednesday in areas such as Newcastle and Ladysmith.
The service has also predicted more thunderstorms, heavy rainfall, snow, gale force winds and very rough seas countrywide.
Spokeswoman for the service, Kenosi Machepa, said it was continuing to monitor the weather system that was expected to cause extreme weather conditions over most of South Africa. KZN was one of the areas most likely to be affected.
Severe thunderstorms accompanied by heavy rains are expected to hit southern parts of KZN.
Snowfall was expected in the Drakensberg area – from Monday night until Tuesday morning.
Daytime temperatures were likely to drop over most of the interior, with many areas likely to experience maximums of only 10ºC (or even less) today, said Machepa.
“Tomorrow [Wednesday], daytime temperatures are still likely to be cold over most parts of the country. But, we can look forward to milder, sunnier conditions towards the weekend.”
She said the cause of the extreme weather conditions was a combination of a well-defined cut-off low pressure system, interacting with a cold frontal system.
“An additional feature associated with this weather pattern is the presence of a strong surface high [also known as an anticyclone] that will be ridging very strongly over land immediately after the passage of the cold front.”
Meanwhile, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube has put the province on high alert after the weather warnings.
“We have dispatched teams across most parts of KZN so that they work with municipalities to respond swiftly in case of disasters.”
After last night’s heavy rain and hailstorm, Netcare911 spokesman, Chris Botha, said two people survived after their vehicle plunged off a bridge and landed in aManzimtoti River last night.
Reports indicated that the man and his wife had been travelling along the N2 towards Durban when the driver lost control of the vehicle after hitting a water puddle on the freeway.
Vanessa Jackson, ER24 spokeswoman, said emergency paramedics attended to a number of minor accidents related to the rainy weather on Monday night.