Snow and high winds cause havoc in Eastern Cape

Snow on the mountains at Maclear, Eastern Cape. Picture: twitter / @StormReportSA1

Buffelsfontein near Molteno recorded -10°C; Aliwal North, Barkley East and Jamestown recorded -7°C while Cradock and Elliot registered -3°C.

Strong gale force winds left a trail of destruction in the Eastern Cape over the past two days, reportedly toppling trucks over and causing damage to property, while snow blocked mountain passes.

On Wednesday Garth Sampson, spokesperson for the SA Weather Service’s Port Elizabeth office said: “Snow is still evident on the high lying ground in the extreme north-east but should melt off in the next day or so as temperatures recover.”

Bitterly cold conditions with frost were recorded over the interior on Wednesday, with Buffelsfontein, Molteno, at -10°C, experiencing the lowest temperatures.

Aliwal North, Barkley East and Jamestown recorded -7°C while Cradock and Elliot registered -3°C.

Transport authorities had their hands full diverting traffic to alternate routes and towing trucks from the roadside.

The Wapadsberg Pass on the R61 between Graaff-Reinet and Cradock was closed to traffic on Tuesday due to heavy snowfall.

Transport department spokesperson Unathi Binqose said all mountain passes closed to traffic were opened by Wednesday after the snow had melted.

“All clear on our roads except for a stop and go on the N2 section 20 between Mount Frere and Mount Ayliff for approximately 5km. Sugarbush and Lugelweni and Puti will be affected.”

Television journalists Aviwe Mtila and Nceba Ntlanganiso reported that they had come across two trucks tipped over by strong winds on the N2 between Mthatha and Dutywa on Monday while on an assignment.

In East London, 40 shacks were destroyed by a fire fuelled by strong winds on Monday. The fire was caused by illegal electricity connections, but was fanned by winds, said Buffalo City Metro spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya.

Ngwenya said strong winds also caused damage to houses and walls in the city. “It has been a challenging day for our emergency and standby services across the city. Due to heavy winds, our personnel have been busy responding to emergency calls related to water, electricity, trees, traffic accidents and fires,” said Ngwenya.

A giant gumtree was uprooted by winds in Mdantsane’s NU 8 outside East London on Tuesday, said Ngwenya. A second tree fell on an overhead electricity line.

Ngwenya said 114 people were left homeless by the fire. He said the municipality’s disaster management unit took down all the names of the victims for applications for Sassa’s social relief package.

Sampson said the rain on Tuesday night “brushed” the coastline.

“This can be seen as the PE airport recorded a nice 31mm, other parts of the metro, like Uitenhage only received a mere 6mm. The southern parts of the Langkloof catchment received between 19 and 45mm in the Kareedouw region, while further up, Joubertina only received a mere 3mm. Patensie only received 5mm,” said Sampson.

He said temperatures would start improving and no significant weather or rain was expected for the next five days.

Conditions were expected to clear up by Wednesday.

“The weather does start clearing from the morning, with the daytime temperatures also recovering from midday,” said meteorologist Lelo Kleinbooi.

The weather authority had warned the marine community of strong to gale force winds and high seas along the coastline on Tuesday. The conditions were expected to improve overnight into Wednesday morning.

“We still advise the public and marine community to take [the] necessary precautions and be safe,” said Kleinbooi.

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