Lee-Anne Butler and Janine Oelofse
THE icy spell that has gripped most of the Eastern Cape – with heavy rain and snow forcing several road closures – is expected to start clearing tomorrow.
The Nelson Mandela Bay area, despite severe weather warnings, has not seen much rain since Monday night, with only 9.2mm recorded at the Port Elizabeth Airport, 9.8mm at the Third Avenue dip in Newton Park and 14.4mm at St Albans.
Elsewhere in the province as well as the Garden Route, heavy rain, snow, rough seas, 45km/h winds and biting cold temperatures of under 14°C over the past two days have led to swollen rivers and water- logged roads. Several roads have also been closed as a result of snow.
The cold and wet conditions are expected to continue today, clearing from tomorrow.
Provincial police spokesman for disaster management Captain John Fobian said teams in Nelson Mandela Bay were standing by as more rain was expected.
He said no requests for assistance had been received yet.
Fobian said the police had a fully operational 24-hour Joint Operations Centre and the municipality would establish a centre if the need arose.
In the Southern Cape, Eden District community services manager Clive Africa said contingency planning had been implemented throughout the region following the severe weather warning.
He said up to 57mm of rain had fallen in George, and between 10mm and 26mm had been recorded in the Mossel Bay and Knysna areas. Other areas that recorded rain were Cape St Francis (23.2mm), Patensie (29mm), Coega (17.2mm) and Graaff-Reinet (21.6mm).
Africa said there had been no reports of floods by late afternoon and no residents had required evacuation or accommodation.
Hogsback Inn manager and former AlgoaFM presenter Jill Stewart said the hotel had received a lot of inquiries and was fully booked for the weekend as from today.
"I remember there being a lot more snow last year but I do not remember it ever being this cold,” she said.
"This is probably the coldest it has ever been. The average is between 3°C to 4°C during the day and at night we can go down to -5°C.”
Stewart said it had started snowing on Monday evening, followed by rain showers.
"This year, we did not even have an autumn. We went straight from summer into this bitterly cold winter. I do not remember ever needing five layers of clothing before,” she said.
Angora goat and sheep farmer William Copeman said his farm, situated about 30km outside Cradock, had not been affected despite it being one of the coldest winters he could recall.
"It has definitely been one of the wettest winters in my 10 years of farming. My neighbour keeps records and he says it is probably the wettest in over 19 years.
"It is freezing cold as well and there has been snow on the Compass Mountains for five weeks straight.”
Agri Eastern Cape president Ernest Pringle said the very cold weather conditions did not help livestock farmers very much, especially those who had just shorn their Angora goats.
"Farmers that have just shorn their goats or even their sheep need to take every precaution in this type of weather. Many of them are shorn mid-winter.
"On the positive side, we should have a very good spring with all this moisture in the ground,” Pringle said.
Road closures in the province yesterday included the Wapadsberg Pass on the R61 between Graaff-Reinet and Cradock, the Lootsberg Pass on the N9 between Graaff-Reinet and Middelburg, the Barkly Pass on the R58 between Elliot and Barkly East, the R61 between Cofimvaba and Queenstown and the Katkop Pass between Mount Fletcher and Maclear.
The Penhoek Pass on the N6 between Jamestown and Aliwal North was open but slippery; the Nico Malan Pass between Seymour and Fort Beaufort was open but a fallen tree was obstructing one lane; the Ecca Pass between Grahamstown and Fort Beaufort was open but snow was falling in the area; the Olifantskop Pass on the N10 between Paterson and Cookhouse was open but slippery; and the Boesmanshoek Pass between Sterkstroom and Molteno was open but motorists were warned to proceed with extreme care.
The Swartberg Pass between Oudtshoorn and Prince Albert was closed yesterday morning due to snowfalls, while a number of low- lying bridges flooded in nearby Meiringspoort.
SA Weather Service spokesman Garth Sampson said the weather was only expected to start clearing from tomorrow but conditions would remain cool for most of the week.
He said Port Elizabeth had received a total of 384mm of rain so far this winter, the third wettest on record.
"Day-time temperatures are down but night-time temperatures are up due to cloud cover, so basically average temperatures are more or less normal [this winter],” he added.
The minimum and maximum temperatures for today are: 9°C to 14°C for Port Elizabeth, 6°C to 14°C for Uitenhage, 6°C to 10°C for Grahamstown, 2°C to 9°C for Cradock, 0°C to 7°C for Graaff-Reinet, 11°C to 14°C for East London, 11°C to 15°C for Port St Johns, 4°C to 10°C for Mthatha, 5°C to 8°C for Queenstown, 7°C to 11°C for King William’s Town and 8°C to 14°C for Plettenberg Bay.