PREDICTED thunderstorms for Joburg lasted a couple of minutes. Simone Kley; Tiro Ramatlhatse
Johannesburg - The warnings began flashing across social media earlier in the week. Heavy rains were coming and they would be arriving in Gauteng on Thursday afternoon.

Thunderstorms were predicted, with hail, and the possibility of a downpour of between 40mm and 50mm of rain.

For Joburgers, after weeks of watching storm clouds stack up in the south only to dissipate with out a drop of rain, Thursday was promising to be the day the summer rains finally came.

Not everyone was surprised by this weather forecast, however.

Thursday happened to be October 10 and that is former Transvaal president Paul Kruger’s birthday.

Legend has it that the rains arrive on the eastern part of South Africa on Oom Paul’s birthday.

How Oom Paul gets it right, no one has worked that out yet.

The South African Weather Service (Saws) on the other hand were basing their prediction on science.

The forecast of heavy rain said forecaster Edward Engelbrecht, had to do with a high pressure system sneaking in behind a cold front that was pushing moist air into the north eastern parts of the country.

“As soon as this moisture gets into the country it is going to help develop thunderstorms,” explained Engelbrecht on Wednesday.

These coming thunderstorms would mark the start of a season which for the moment has meteorologists undecided over whether it is going to bring above or below average rain fall.

“Our forecasts are indicating a dry start to the season, the early summer being drier than normal. And then the end of the year and beginning of next year, there are indications that there will be wetter conditions,” said Cobus Olivier, a meteorologist at Saws.

The concern is that other forecasts are giving far gloomier scenarios.

“All the international forecasts are indicating dry conditions, right throughout summer,” explained Olivier. “You see, there is a confidence issue in the forecast itself and most of this stems from the El Niño Oscillation system being neutral. Usually, when it is neutral our forecasts aren’t as good as when we are in a El Niño or El Niña season.”

El Niño is associated with drier conditions and El Niña with wet.

A dry season would naturally have an effect on South Africa’s water reserves.

“Our water resources are okay at the moment but if we have a bad season this year we will be in trouble next year,” said Olivier.

By Thursday afternoon the thunder clouds were rolling in across Joburg.

At 2pm, in downtown Troyeville, at the time the Saws had predicted, it began to rain. But it wasn’t the deluge predicted.

After a couple of minutes the rain stopped and the sun appeared.

It was good enough, Joburgers were once again greeted to the smell of sweet summer rain.

In a tweet, Saws explained why Joburg appeared to have missed out on some serious rains.

“Stable air moved in earlier across Gauteng which resulted in a lack of thunderstorm development,” the tweet read.

Mpumalanga and Limpopo did experience heavy rainfall.

The N1 highway between Mookgophong and Mokopane in Limpopo was left white with hail stones.

There is a good chance, however, that Gauteng will see some more serious thunderstorms next week, Engelbrecht predicted.

But while it might not have been the rain Joburgers were hoping for on Thursday, it did mark the start of the season. And, yes, the ghost of Oom Paul had come through yet again.

Saturday Star