Golf ball size hail and flash floods battered Gauteng on 9 October which killed one and injured four people in the Krugersdorp area of the West Rand. Two were injured due to the collapse of the Cradlestone Mall’s roof while the other three were hurt near the Hillside Road area, with one sustaining fatal injuries. The roof of Protea Riff Primary School, in Protea Glen, Soweto, was also blown off . The South Gauteng High Court and the Home Affairs building in Krugersdorp were among the identified state-owned properties damaged by the weather. The Gauteng Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs spokesperson Mogomotsi Mogodiri, expressed that emergency personnel relocated approximately 500 people to the Magaliesberg community hall in Orient Hills on the West Rand.

On 10 October another storm hit KwaZulu-Natal, leaving the N2 flooded with vehicles submerged in water. Passengers on a minibus taxi were rescued by paramedics. Paramedics also rushed to Kingsway Road in response to a call and safely rescued individuals who were trapped inside a house. At least 30 state-owned properties were damaged, including “17 occupied by South African Police Services, Departments of Labour, Justice and Defence as well as 13 leased facilities” said Nkosinathi Nhleko, Minister of Public Works. The KwaZulu-Natal

Department of Health confirmed that the heavy rains affected five hospitals: Addington, Wentworth, King Dinuzulu, Prince Mshiyeni Memorial and King Edward. KwaZulu-Natal premier, Willies Mchunu, said that more than 133 schools were affected with an estimated cost of approximately R136-million required to repair the damages.
The CEO of the South African Weather Service (SAWS), Jerry Lengoasa, spoke at a press briefing in Pretoria and expressed that most ordinary citizens did not receive “life and livelihood-saving information” about the storm and stresses the importance of investment in infrastructure maintenance and forecasting capability. He did, however, go further to say that SAWS has plans to launch an SMS service for citizens to receive weather alerts. This system is expected to come into effect in March next year on World Meteorology Day.

Devastating storms and flash floods can be attributed, in part, to extreme climate change. The South African Weather Service defines Climate Change as “the natural cycle through which the earth and its atmosphere are going to accommodate the change in the amount of energy received from the sun”, however, SAWS goes on to assert that “human intervention is currently causing the climate to change really fast, plants and animals may not be able to adapt [as] quickly to this rapid climate change as humans can, therefore the whole ecosystem [is] in danger”.

Professor of Meteorology at UP, Prof Landman, explains that “recent extreme weather events may not be directly linked to climate change, but in a changing climate the chances and frequency of such extremes increase. The most robust signal we get from climate models is increasing temperatures, so it seems that we will continue to see a rise in temperatures over the decades ahead”.
Piotr Wolski, who is an expert in hydro-climatology from the University of Cape Town and part of UCT’s Climate Systems Analysis Group, expressed that we cannot attribute the occurrence of a single event to climate change, however, it is expected that climate change will affect rainfall locally and cause large increases. He stresses that current weather patterns need to be studied further but, nevertheless, predicts that climate change will likely influence more extreme weather conditions in the country in the coming years.

Photo: Sally Hartzenberg

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