Cyclone Freddy set to hit eastern regions of SA

Cyclone Freddy is on its way to Mozambique. Picture: AFP

Cyclone Freddy is on its way to Mozambique. Picture: AFP

Published Feb 23, 2023


Pretoria - Residents of Pretoria and the rest of Gauteng, as well as most of the inland provinces, have nothing to worry about when tropical cyclone Freddy hits Mozambique, the SA Weather Service has assured.

However, emergency personnel in Limpopo and Mpumalanga are warned to be on alert.

Senior manager for disaster risk reduction Tshepo Ngobeni said residents of Mopani and Vhembe districts of Limpopo and Ehlanzeni in Mpumalanga should expect a wet and windy weekend.

Although these parts of South Africa will not be directly hit by the cyclone, their close proximity to Mozambique and Zimbabwe, the path of the cyclone, means that they will be affected by heavy rain, strong winds, flooding and overflow of infrastructure like bridges and collapse of trees this weekend.

Although not as much rain is expected elsewhere, residents of the Capricorn district, also in Limpopo, as well as Umkhanyakude, Zululand and Amajuba in KwaZulu-Natal have been urged to be extra vigilant.

According to Ngobeni, the situation in these areas may be exacerbated by the recent flooding.

Ngobeni said disaster avoidance messages were sent to the relevant disaster management departments who are mandated to act decisively to mitigate against loss of life and property, including livestock, which is outside of their mandate as the weather monitoring body.

However, he said it would be critical for emergency services to take the warning seriously to ensure measures were taken to save lives and warn people to protect their livestock.

Ngobeni said the SA Weather Service was closely monitoring Freddy, which became a feature of the circulation of the South-west Indian Ocean region in mid-February and lay about 400km to the north-east of Mauritius on Monday. It has been drifting westwards ever since.

"It has since made landfall along the eastern coastline of Madagascar, just north of Mananjary, at about 7.30pm on Tuesday early evening. The relatively compact storm was a low-end Category 2 tropical cyclone just before making landfall, with winds of 150km/h and gusts up to 180km.

"It weakened significantly due to the rugged terrain it encountered and was downgraded to an overland depression during the evening. The World Meteorological Organization designated Regional Specialised Meteorological Centre located at La Reunion forecast that Cyclone Freddy would continue in a west-south-westerly direction over the next few days.

"It was expected to regain its strength on Wednesday night as it moved into the Mozambique Channel. Freddy may yet again reach near tropical cyclone status tonight while heading to southern Mozambique, making landfall just north of Vilanculos on Friday morning."

He said very heavy rainfall in the order of 200mm to 400mm was possible, and this may result in widespread significant flooding in the three districts.

“Moreover, after significant flooding occurred over the Lowveld and escarpment areas such as the Kruger National Park in the last few weeks, this may be catastrophic and cause prolonged and severe impacts.”

In addition to heavy rains, strong winds caused by the cyclone are also expected in the north-eastern parts of the country from Friday evening, with average speeds of about 45km/h.

He said the SA Weather Service was working closely with stakeholders and partners to reduce disaster risk.

On Wednesday, they briefed the National Joint Flood Co-ordination Committee and were provided with the opportunity to brief National Disaster Management Centre and sector departments regarding the latest information and guidance regarding Cyclone Freddy.

Tropical cyclones are relatively small, intensely developed low pressure cells that usually occur over warm oceans. Their diameter can range between 200 and 2 000km. They are characterised by a warm centre, very steep pressure gradients, strong cyclonic winds near the Earth's surface and a maximum wind speed exceeding 110km/h.

Tropical cyclones are always accompanied by torrential rain. A single storm may yield up to 3 000mm of rain.

Heavy rains sometimes occur many days after landfall and are also very destructive. They may give rise to floods. Strong winds also occur as a result of the steep pressure gradient.

Pretoria News