NTANDO MAKHUBU, KENNEDY MUDZULI, ZELDA VENTER AND SAPA
Pretoria - A heavy hailstorm hit parts of Pretoria and the Witwatersrand on Thursday afternoon, shattering windscreens, windows and roofs and causing damage estimated at millions of rand.
The heavy downpour and hail damaged houses in some parts of the city extensively, leaving gaping holes where there were windows, breaking roofs and leaving ceilings caved causing the flooding of interiors.
In Pretoria, the worst-hit areas were Soshanguve, Hammanskraal, Ga-Rankuwa, Karen Park, Nellmapius, Orchards and some suburbs in the east of the city.
On Thursday night, Mamelodi residents were bracing themselves to spend a difficult night.
The men in the Baloyi family of Mamelodi East’s Extension 4 climbed on to the roof to cover the damaged tiles with blankets and towels, while inside the house containers had to catch rain and water dripping from the ceiling.
“We have spent the past couple of hours mopping up. We will do that until morning because so much of the ceiling is under pressure, we might wake up to find ourselves washed away,” Michael Baloyi said.
The home of their neighbour, Ellen Hlongwane, was also flooded, and she had no electricity. Buckets stood around the house to catch the water dripping from the ceiling.
“We had a similar incident two weeks ago, a storm cracked windows. Today, they were finished off,” she said.
The damage in Ali Manchidi’s house was also bad. Windows were broken in the lounge and the ceiling in one bedroom was gone after the tiles broke and allowed the rain in.
He said: “My car was also hit badly by the storm. The lights, windows and grill are gone.”
Residents in some parts of the city said they would spent the night mopping up as the rain continued to fall into the night.
Several amateur pictures of the damage and of hail stones the size of golf balls were posted on Twitter later in the afternoon.
Tshwane emergency services were inundated with calls.
“We are trying to attend to as many incidents as we can,” Tshwane EMS spokesman Johan Pieterse said.
He said roofs had been blown off in several informal settlements.
“People must stay inside their houses, channel the water away from their homes and report any emergencies,” Pieterse said.
During the storm motorists had to turn into petrol stations for cover.
By 4pm, the sky had turned a dark grey and the rain started to pour as darkness fell.
Those who couldn’t stop braved the weather, driving slowly with their emergency lights on.
The hailstorm lasted less than half an hour, bringing hailstones the size of golf balls and apples.
In Joburg, emergency management services spokesman Robert Mulaudzi said severe downpours flooded parts of the West Rand by mid-afternoon, and rescue teams had been dispatched.
He said houses in Dobsonville, Bramfischerville, Emdeni and Kliptown in Soweto had been flooded, had their roofs blown off and their windows broken.
Residents in Florida and Roodepoort on the West Rand reported trees had fallen in the streets.
“EMS teams are monitoring the extent of damage in Alexandra and Diepsloot,” Mulaudzi said.
“We will remain on high alert throughout the night.”
Former head of the National Prosecuting Authority Vusi Pikoli tweeted: “Watching a hailstorm belting Tshwane. My heart goes out to those caught in it!”
Sports reporter OG Molefe tweeted: “Power out, broken window… The result of the hail storm.”
The SA Weather Service said severe thunderstorms and flooding had to be expected in other parts of the country on Thursday night.
Herman Scholtz, who lives in Wapadrand, said when he drove through Waterkloof Ridge, the hail was as big a golf balls. Motorists scrambled for shelter even if it was under the nearest tree.
“It evidently also hailed a lot in Wapadrand, because when I got home, big hail stones were strewn across my lawn. My garden was completely under water,” Scholtz said.
Two units in the Wapadrand Place complex were flooded.
“My whole house is knee deep in water,” said one of the residents who did not want to be named. He said the problem was caused by the hail covering the drain so the water ran into his house.
Willow Park was also hit, with reports of dents in cars and cracked windscreens, and shattered lights and windows.
“It was just little stones when it started but they got bigger and bigger and then they were golf ball size,” reported Sheila Fagan. “It only lasted about 10 minutes.”
When she went outside there were cracks in her car’s windscreen. A neighbour had a similar problem.
Fagan said another neighbour reported a sliding door had cracked and outside lightfittings were shattered.
“Even a section of the electric fence is down.”
Estate agent Marietjie Prinsloo was showing a house in Willow Park Manor when the storm hit.
“The hail stones were the size of golf balls and smashed a window,” she said.
SA Weather Service forecaster Jan Vermeulen said they had “grape-sized” hailstones at their offices in Erasmusrand.
He said there had been warning of severe thunderstorms for parts of the city with hail and localised flooding.
Twitter also had people looking to the heavens.
@mthokoM: “Hail Storm in Pretoria! Damn ice all ova! Eish this weather.”
@Kagiso_Maleka: “Hail stones in Pretoria are on steroids.”
@Taygo_Phatso: “The hail in Pretoria is deadly yhong! so many damaged windows.”
@suvarna2711: “Hail storm in Pretoria right now? Not even the weather gods like the new Blue Bulls kit!”
@RoryK_9: “@Beuran_H13: “This is probably the biggest storm I’ve ever been in!!! Rain hail and lightning.”