People warm themselves by a fire at the Bree Street taxi rank on Gwigwi Mrwebi Street. 250716. Picture: Chris Collingridge 642
People warm themselves by a fire at the Bree Street taxi rank on Gwigwi Mrwebi Street. 250716. Picture: Chris Collingridge 642

Warnings as wild weather hits SA

By ILANIT CHERNICK, VUYO MKIZE, GADEEJA ABBAS AND RAAHIL SAIN Time of article published Jul 25, 2016

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Johannesburg - A number of roads and mountain passes in the Eastern Cape were closed on Monday due to heavy snowfalls in the province.

Provincial traffic department deputy director Charles Bramwell said most towns in the north eastern parts of the Eastern Cape have been affected by snowfall.

This included the towns of Maclear, Ugie, Elliot, Barley-East, Dordrecht, Queenstown, Jamestown, Aliwal North, Burgersdorp, Mount Fletcher and Cala.

Bramwell said three of the busiest passes are among those closed.

These include Loodsberg pass on the N9 between Graaff-Reinet and Middelburg, the Wapadsberg pass on the R61 between Cradock and Graaff-Reinet, and the Penhoek pass on the N6 between Queenstown and Jamestown.

Other closures include the R410 between Cala and Queenstown, the R392 between Dodrecht and Queenstown, Boesmanshoek between Sterkstroom and Molteno and Satansnek Pass between Elliot and Ngcobo.

Bramwell also warned of mist and heavy rainfall on the N2 between Tsitsikamma and Humansdorp.

There was also traffic chaos in Durban on Monday morning after two buses and two taxis collided in separate incidents. This was as rain continued to fall over the city and snow closed major roads in KwaZulu-Natal.

The authorities have warned of dangerous conditions on roads in the province, with more cold weather expected and the sun expected to put in an appearance only on Thursday.

Thirty people were injured when two buses crashed in Chris Hani (North Coast) Road near the N2 on- and off-ramps.

One of the buses had been travelling from Phoenix towards Durban when it smashed into the side of another bus.

Traffic heading to Durban from the north, including Ntuzuma, Inanda, Phoenix, uMhlanga, and Duffs Road, was brought to a standstill for more than an hour.

Metro Police spokesman, Inspector Sibonelo Mchunu, said 13 people were seriously injured and they were taken to Mahatma Gandhi Hospital in Phoenix.

According to ER24 paramedics, a taxi driver, believed to be 33, was injured in a collision with another taxi on the M35 at Philani Valley before Isipingo.

ER24 spokeswoman, Chitra Bodasing, said only the two drivers were at the scene.

According to Snow Report SA, the following roads were closed in KwaZulu-Natal on Monday morning: Kingscote cutting, between Underberg and Swartberg; the R74 between Bergville and Harrismith; and the R617, between Underberg and Boston.

SA Weather Service forecaster, Julius Mahlangu, said on Sunday the rain was expected to continue until Wednesday evening, while snowfall in the south of the province and Midlands, would continue until Tuesday evening.

Snow Report SA predicted more snow over Lesotho, Sani Pass and its surround with heavy snowfalls expected into the evening over the Northern Drakensberg.

On Sunday, snow fell as far south as Kokstad and Matatiele, while the Midlands and much of the Drakensberg were also seeing their fair share of the white stuff. The lowest temperature was recorded at Giant’s Castle with the mercury dropping to zero and rising to only 4ºC on Sunday.

Con Roux, commercial manager for the N3 Toll Concession, which manages and operates the N3 Toll Route between Cedara in KZN, and Heidelberg in Gauteng, yesterday warned that, “With light snow flurries and sleet starting to fall in high-lying areas along the N3 Toll Route, motorists and transport operators are advised to avoid the area, if possible.

“This is because the snow has created black ice which makes the roads slippery when driving,” Roux added.

He said parts of the R74 at Oliviershoek Pass had also been closed and encouraged road users to be considerate when driving. “Emergency teams’ ability to address difficult situations and clear the route as quickly as possible depends heavily on the compliance of all road users,” he said.

Netcare’s Chris Botha said on Sunday that a vehicle had overturned on the N3 between Warden and Harrismith. “Reports from the scene indicate that the vehicle slid on the ice-covered road and overturned,” Botha said.

“Fortunately for the occupants of the Toyota Quantum minibus, they only had minor injuries,” he said. The injured were taken to a hospital in Harrismith for treatment, Botha added.

The Western Cape is bracing itself for storm conditions that will cause flooding in some areas and dangerous conditions along the coast.

Residents have been advised to practise “extreme caution” around the coastline which will experience strong gale-force winds, rough seas, heavy sea swells and big surf conditions, exacerbated by a full moon spring tide. The stormy conditions are expected to be accompanied by light snowfall in the mountains.

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) issued the warning after the SA Weather Service posted alerts.

The NSRI’s Craig Lambinon said the combined effect of the spring tide that peaked last Wednesday and stormy weather would cause dangerous sea, surf and shoreline conditions.

Spring tide happens twice every month, at full moon and at new moon, bringing higher-than-normal high tides, lower-than-normal low tides and stronger-than-normal rip currents.

Lambinon said: “We urge boaters, paddlers, bathers, sailors and anglers to be cautious around the coast during these storm conditions. We urge sea users to watch weather warnings, have the sea rescue emergency phone number, 112, programmed into your phone and only go to sea if it is absolutely necessary.

“Anglers fishing along the shoreline, hikers hiking along coastal hiking routes, beach strollers, paddlers and boaters should be vigilant of the tides, breaking surf along the shoreline, higher-than-normal high tides, lower-than-normal low tides, stronger-than-normal rip currents and rough sea conditions.”

He said that anyone launching any kind of craft to go to sea should let a responsible person know their launch time, theirexact route and when they expected to return.

“Stick to your intended plan and let a responsible person know their launch time, their exact route and when they will return. City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management spokeswoman Charlotte Powell said they were on “high alert” and standing by with a winter readiness programme designed to relieve the most vulnerable areas in the city.

Powell said the most high-risk areas were the informal settlements in Khayelitsha, Philippi, Strand and Masiphumelele.

The SA Weather Service is expecting heavy rainfall and flooding over the Eden and Overberg districts this evening, spreading to the Cape Metropole, Cape Winelands and West Coast district.

Ceres will see the chilliest drop to 1ºC while Paarl, Hermanus, Cape Agulhas, and Cape Point will drop to a low 11ºC and areas on the Cape Flats will see a minimum of 8ºC.

Gale-force south-easterly winds blowing at 65km/h to 75km/h are expected between Stilbaai and Table Bay tomorrow afternoon, with high waves predicted to reach a height of 9m between Cape Agulhas and Plettenberg Bay.

Weather Service staff predict an intense cut-off low pressure system will affect the Western Cape until Tuesday, with an 80 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms.

Meanwhile Joburg Emergency Management Services (EMS) has warned residents to be careful trying to stay warm.

“We advise communities especially in the informal settlements to look after their paraffin stoves, candles and gas heaters,” said spokesman Robert Mulaudzi.

“Keep rooms well ventilated if you are using paraffin or gas to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

“In formal areas, be careful when leaving heaters on during the night,” he said, urging people instead to turn them off before going to bed.

Mulaudzi said Joburg EMS would be on high alert as the cold snap set in.

“If rain and snow is expected in Gauteng, we advise motorists to drive carefully as the roads will be wet and slippery, which can lead to more accidents,” he said.

While the SA Weather Service couldn't say on Monday whether the latest chill was the last bang for winter, Joburg can certainly expect a chilly few days ahead as the high pressure causing cooler conditions moves into the province from the east and north-east.

Forecaster Christina Thaele said: “Possible showers and thundershowers are expected today, with a 30 percent chance in the north of Gauteng and 60 percent in the south. This will continue until tomorrow, when there’s a 60 to 80 percent chance of on-and-off showers and thundershowers in the south of Gauteng.”

While the rain should clear up by Wednesday night, she said, that would bring little respite for residents. The wind-chill factor would make things feel colder than the temperatures on Monday.

And with the mercury not expected to reach more than 20ºC, the cold snap is set to hit hard.

“The temperatures for Gauteng are in the mid to high teens, with Pretoria’s maximum temperature reaching 19ºC, Joburg 18ºC and Vereeniging 16ºC,” said Thaele.

“By tomorrow, the maximum temperatures are expected to drop further to the lower teens.

“By Wednesday, the minimums will stay cold, possibly the coldest of the week, and temperatures will start to recover by Thursday,” she said.

Eskom warned that illegal connections and cable theft were straining the grid.

[email protected]; @lanc_02

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The Star, Cape Argus, Daily News and ANA

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