A wonderland with drawbacks

2012-08-09 00:00

THE widespread snowfalls in the Midlands area — the heaviest in 30 years, by one account — had certainly transformed the region into a wonderland, but there drawbacks too, authorities said yesterday.

“I’ve been living here for 23 years and I’ve never seen such heavy snow,” said Democratic Alliance councillor and Nottingham Road resident Moira Grueneberg.

She said the snow started falling on Tuesday and continued throughout the night until about 7 am yesterday, blanketing the area in a thick, white carpet.

“It is certainly beautiful and it does transform the area into a wonderland, but there are some drawbacks,” said Grueneberg.

One of these was the widespread power outages experienced throughout the province. The other problem was the “misbehaviour” of the many motorists who seemed to forget rules of the road when they encountered the snow.

Grueneberg said the R103 between Balgowan and Nottingham Road was completely blocked by cars parked haphazardly, without any consideration for the free flow of traffic.

“This is a fairly narrow road and at the moment; the roads are still very wet and slippery. It is a concern that if they are needed, emergency vehicles will not be able to get through,” she said.

“There are not enough traffic officers available to fine the people, but come next August, we will have to sit down and try to come up with a plan to educate people.

“All we can do is to appeal to motorists to please show some respect for the rules of the road,” she said.

Warrant Officer Mark Roberts, of the polic e accident response unit in Pietermaritzburg, said it was one of the heaviest snowfalls he had seen in the Midlands area in his 30 years of service.

Roberts said they had rescued about 30 motorists, whose vehicles became bogged down in the snow overnight in the area between Tweedie and Nottingham Road, shortly before midday.

“We couldn’t get past Nottingham Road even with 4x4s until the road was graded,” he said. Roberts said there were many more motorists still trapped in the snow and the rescue operation was continuing.

“The Gift of the Givers supplied blankets and a meal of soup and bread for the people,” he said.

He said Colonel Ivan Hamilton, of the public order policing unit, had set out in a Nyala vehicle early yesterday to help free trapped motorists.

Rescue teams from the defence force, police, Transport Department, Road Traffic Inspectorate, ER24 and Gift of the Givers Foundation set out from first light yesterday to help motorists and truck drivers stuck in the one-metre deep snow that closed the N3 from Tweedie northwards.

Several other major roads were also closed, cutting off Underberg, Himeville and the southern Drakensberg.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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