Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Freak storm wreaks havoc in the Eastern Cape (10 February 2012)

WHERE’S MY ROOF: Mlungisi Dama of Dowu village inside his spaza shop where a roof was also blown off by strong winds. STEPHANIE LLOYD

A SERIES of 20 storm cells merged to form five large storms which generated destructive gusts of wind and heavy rain on Sunday evening.

Residents throughout a large area of the Eastern Cape were shocked at the severity of the gust fronts and accompanying deluges.

This story of the storms, which smashed into an area taking in both metros, and reaching inland as far as Cradock and Butterworth, was told by two weather and two disaster management experts.

Eastern Cape SA Weather Service spokesman Garth Sampson said although these summer storms were “normal” and not part of climate change, they were characterised by destructive gust fronts.

He explained that parcels of air formed up in the very top of the thunderheads or anvils, and then “dived” from heights of 1.4km and burst out the front of the storm.
Gust front downdrafts have tossed two park homes into the air, and were responsible for most of the damage.

A gust front travelling at up to 180km/h will gouge the earth in a straight, narrow line between 100m to a kilometre wide, and move at ground level for a short distance, probably only lasting a minute.

Such fronts are capable of opening up a home “like a can of sardines,” said Sampson.
Kaysers Beach mom Margaret Green said their evening of DStv viewing turned to DVD watching as the power went out.

“Suddenly there was a huge crash,” she said, as two heavy asbestos roof sheets disappeared into the sky and rain sluiced through the 1.5m x 3m-hole, drenching carpets in three bedrooms and causing all the top floor ceiling boards to sag.

HOMELESS: Mzwandile Tywaleni of Dowu village in Chalumna showing Daily Dispatch reporters his house that was destroyed by the strong winds and rain on Sunday. Picture: STEPHANIE LLOYD

Sampson said February was perfect for storms like these, of which the metros received about three a month during a season stretching between September and March.
“You have the heat, you have the easterly flow [ of moist sea air] . You have energy and petrol. What more do you need?”

In the Buffalo City Metro, residents keyed up to watch the Afcon cup final on telly instead found themselves shunting furniture around, holding towels to the ceiling or soaking up water with mops.

Shortly before the kick-off, lightning crashed hitting trees and dropping branches, and a deluge of 34.2mm of rain caused gutters to collapse and sent water through roofs.

However, Buffalo City Metro disaster manager Owen Becker said the city’s services were able to cope with minor flooding, outages and other damage.
The Daily Dispatch learned from a local weather expert that the East London temperature plunged from 30 degrees to 19 degrees after the storm broke, while the humidity level went from 62.6% to 92%.

DESTROYED: Welekazi Makeleni seen outside her house in Sandile village after a roof was ripped off by strong winds on Sunday night Pictures: STEPHANIE LLOYD

The wind direction swung from a 35km northerly wind to a 55km south-westerly, with gusts of up to 200km observed near Greenfields.

Visibility for aircraft was reduced to a minimal 1110m as the cloud cover switched from a mid- level altocumulus to ground-level stratocumulus.

Eastern Cape disaster management spokesman John Fobian said both metros experienced flash flooding, and there were reports of power outages in Alice, settlements in the Great Fish river basin, Cradock and along the Sunshine Coast.

- Daily Dispatch

SAWDOS: Well done Garth Sampson and the Daily Dispatch!! A great analysis by Garth of the severe storms that struck the Eastern Cape this past weekend. Your years of experience is clearly noticeable. Thanks Daily Dispatch.  This is the type of educational information that the public wants to read and know. Keep up the good work!!

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