KAMCILLA PILLAY, SLINDILE MALULEKA AND THERESA TAYLOR
Snow began falling in the Joburg CBD at 9am today. Reporters in The Star newsroom pressed their faces to the cold glass of the Sauer Street building’s windows to watch the white flakes as the CBD became the latest of areas around the city and country to report seeing snow.
Residents in the Vaal Triangle, Vanderbijl Park and Auckland Park reported waking to snow-covered gardens while heavy snowfall has gripped the Drakensburg and parts of the Eastern and Western Cape.
Accuweather predicted that snow would spread across Joburg from 10am and the chill is expected to continue until Friday.
EMS spokesman Synock Matobako said emergency services had not been called to any weather-related incidents as yet, but said they always had higher call-outs to shack fires during cold spells and asked residents to remain safe.
The SA Weather Service reported snowfalls in Underberg and Giants Castle, KwaZulu-Natal, this morning.
More heavy snowfall is expected tonight and tomorrow in areas such as Newcastle and Ladysmith.
The service has also predicted more thunderstorms, heavy rainfall, snow, gale-force winds and rough seas countrywide.
Spokeswoman Kenosi Machepa said they were continuing to monitor the weather system that was expected to cause extreme weather conditions over most of SA.
KZN has been named as one of the areas to be affected, with severe thunderstorms and heavy rains expected to hit its southern parts.
Snowfall was expected in the Drakensburg area from last night until this morning.
There have also been reports of snowfall in Bethlehem and Clarens in the Free State and snow has fallen on Van Reenen’s Pass.
Road Traffic Management Corporation spokesman Ashraf Ismail said Van Reenen’s Pass was closed to traffic this morning because of the heavy snowfall in the area. It was not known when the road would be re-opened.
Daytime temperatures for the country are likely to drop significantly over most of the interior, with many areas expected to experience maximums of only 10ºC (or even less) today, said Machepa.
“Tomorrow daytime temperatures are still likely to be cold over most parts of the country. But we can look forward to milder, sunnier conditions across a large part of the country towards the weekend.”
She said the cause of the extreme weather conditions was a combination of a well-defined cut-off low-pressure system (located in the upper regions of the atmosphere), 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 overland, immediately following the passage of the cold front.
“This process of surface ridging is expected to advect (ie move horizontally) very cold air from our sub-Antarctic southern ocean areas,” she said.
Meanwhile KZN’s Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Nomusa Dube has put the province on high alert following the weather warnings.
“We have been warned by our disaster experts that most parts of the province are going to experience very low temperatures.
“Many families are likely to try to keep themselves warm by lighting up open fires, using generators, among other heating mechanisms.”
Dube urged people to be careful when using heating mechanisms to prevent disastrous fires. “We have dispatched teams across most parts of KZN so that they work with municipalities to respond swiftly in case of disasters.”
Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha said two people escaped with their lives after their vehicle plunged off a bridge and landed in the eManzimtoti River last night.
Reports indicated that the man and his wife were travelling along the N2 towards Durban when the driver lost control of the vehicle after hitting a water puddle on the highway.
“The vehicle spun out of control, left the road and then plunged some 20m down an embankment into the river,” Botha said.
ER24 spokeswoman in Gauteng Vanessa Jackson said they attended to a number of minor accidents related to the weather last night.