Hailstorms, heavy rain and icy temperatures battered KwaZulu-Natal on Monday with severe flooding reported in and around Durban. Roads were left under water, while hail caused several accidents.
A car plunged off a bridge and landed in the aManzimtoti River after hitting a deep puddle on the N2.
Netcare911 spokesman Chris Botha said the driver and his wife had been travelling towards Durban when their car rolled 20m down an embankment into the river.
Bystanders who witnessed the accident swam out to the submerged car and pulled the couple to safety. They were treated for hypothermia and taken to hospital.
The drastic weather caught many by surprise. The cold front was only expected to hit the province on Tuesday.
At Warwick Junction, three lanes were flooded at peak time and traffic had to share one lane out of the city.
Motorist Kuvan Naidoo said he was stuck in traffic for hours as his route, down Francois Road in Cato Manor, was flooded.
“I passed the Old Mutual Sports Centre and, as I got to the bottom, I could see that several municipal buses had water up to the top of their tyres.”
The hail was hitting his car so hard it felt as if the windows would break.
KZN MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nomusa Dube issued a warning for potential disaster incidents.
“Most parts of the province will experience very low temperatures and this weather is expected to last the whole week,” she said.
Dube said many families would keep warm by lighting open fires and using generators.
“We urge people to be careful about these so as to prevent disastrous fires,” she said.
The department had sent teams across the province to work with municipalities and respond swiftly in disaster situations.
“The weather warning also includes the possibility of snowfalls which may lead to roads becoming impassable. Our disaster teams are on standby, working with the police, to try and provide a rapid rescue service in case of need,” said Dube.
Department spokesman Vernon Mchunu warned that the weather could get worse.
“It will be very cold. Snow is expected in the Drakensberg,” he said.
ER 24 spokesman Derrick Banks said rescue teams were kept busy on Monday responding to several drivers whose cars were affected by hail.
Paramedics responded to emergencies on the N2 in Pinetown and Pietermaritzburg.
“On the N2 near Field’s Hill, several cars overturned when they skidded on the heavy hail.”
In Wentworth roads were so flooded that people were on the roofs of their cars to escape the water, resident Sade van Rhyn said.
“I heard a loud noise like a gunshot and went outside to see what it was,” she said. “My whole yard was covered in hail and then the rain started coming down.”
Van Rhyn said trucks were stuck in front of the Engen plant.
“The water was very high. The whole of Tara Road is flooded. It is completely covered. All the cars travelling to and from Wentworth passing Engen could not get through.”
Durban firefighter Paul Audie tweeted that three cars had washed off the road near Bottlebrush Crescent in Crossmoor.
@Durbanfire tweeted: “Bakkie carrying farm workers on R603 near Eston overturned at 5pm two dead 16 other patients. Brigade sorting out still.”
He also tweeted that there were multiple calls from Chatsworth for flooding.
“Road collapse Blundell road Queensburgh near Chiltern Road,” tweeted @Durbanfire.
Metro policewoman @metrogalzn tweeted: “M7 east before hans detman 1 vehicle overturned – road extremely slippery and road users flying down the m7 already three separate accidents, people must slow down”
Rob Byrne, of TrafficSA, tweeted: “R603 Route, HAIL (heavy) – slippery road surface, 3 serious accidents near Eston Country Club (PMB – Umbumbulu route).
Byrne tweeted that routes towards KZN and the Eastern Cape on the N2 faced possible overnight closure for snow.
The SA Weather Service said people should head to Limpopo if they wanted to be warm as it was the only province that wouldn’t experience extremely cold weather this week. The service warned that most of the country would be gripped by icy weather. The cold weather would ease next week.
The Weather Service explained that the cold weather has been caused by a combination of weather conditions.
Cold air was being pulled into the atmosphere because of a “well-defined cut-off low pressure system” and, combined with a cold front, this caused extremely cold conditions.
The combination caused an “anti-cyclone” effect, in which cold moisture was pushed inland from the oceans. - The Mercury