Expect a week of the worst

08 August 2012 - 02:19 By ANDILE NDLOVU and NASHIRA DAVIDS
A municipal worker looks at the R62 road leading into Montagu, where an ambulance and its driver were swept away by the the Breede River yesterday. The Langeberg Municipality's traffic services say they are still looking for the woman Picture: SHELLEY CHRISTIANS
A municipal worker looks at the R62 road leading into Montagu, where an ambulance and its driver were swept away by the the Breede River yesterday. The Langeberg Municipality's traffic services say they are still looking for the woman Picture: SHELLEY CHRISTIANS

The SA Weather Service has warned that the freezing conditions will only start abating by late Saturday after several areas around the country experienced snow.

The Western Cape mountains, parts of the Eastern Cape, and the Drakensberg experienced heavy snowfalls, while parts of the Free State and Gauteng saw light falls.

"If you think it is windy today, wait for Saturday," Vanetia Phakula, forecaster for the South African Weather Service, warned yesterday.

Phakula said the wind was blowing at 32km/h and it caused all sorts of problems and embarrassing moments for Capetonians.

In the city centre, locals hid behind walls, holding on to their babies and poles, and some - especially those in stilettos - simply could not walk.

An ambulance was swept away by the river in Montagu yesterday morning.

Haman Armstrong from Langeberg Municipality's traffic services said the ambulance driver did not see that the river had overflowed.

"We are still searching for her," said Armstrong yesterday afternoon. Today temperatures and conditions will be less extreme and Phakula said there was only a 30% chance of rain along the south coast of the Western Cape.

All the drama will return on Friday due to another cold front. By Saturday, there will be an 80% chance of rain before it starts to clear. No snowfalls are expected.

Bemused South Africans argued on social networking sites as to whether they were experiencing real snow or just sleet, but weather service senior forecaster Jan Vermeulen said yesterday: "Snowfalls in Johannesburg are not uncommon. We had a similar event in 2007, when an intense cold front associated with an upper air cut-off low system moved over the country.

''For it to reach as far north as Pretoria is uncommon, however - the last confirmed [weather] report of light snow reaching this far north was around 1968 some time."

The last record of snow in Johannesburg, according to the Weather Service, was in June 2007. Before then, it was September 1981, where snow lay up to 20cm deep.

So intense has the weather been since the beginning of this week that the National Border Control Operational Committee reported yesterday that the Caledonspoort Border Post in the Free State and the Qacha's Nek Border Post in the Eastern Cape had been closed until further notice.

The committee's spokesman, William Mpye, said the Monantsha Pass Border Post, Telle Bridge, Ongeluks Nek and the Ramatsiliso Border Posts remained open, but were still dangerous and inaccessible to heavy vehicles. In the Eastern Cape, the R61 pass in Graaff-Reinet, the N9 between Graaff-Reinet and Middelburg, the R58 between Elliot and Barkley East, the R61 between Cofimvaba and Queenstown, as well as the R56 between Mount Fletcher and Maclear have all been closed.

The MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs in KwaZulu-Natal, Nomusa Dube said the province had not experienced anything "disastrous" yet. - Additional reporting by Siya Boya

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