Snow fun to be stuck

2012-08-08 00:00

AS winter’s fury was unleashed across KwaZulu-Natal yesterday, the plummeting temperatures and snowy landscapes had dramatic effects on several fronts.

The heavy snowfalls brought learning to a halt in some parts of KZN, while roads were closed, re­opened and then closed again as deep drifts made them impassable.

Several motorists and passengers were stranded for hours.

Among them were 35 bus passengers — including children — who were travelling from Klerksdorp to Kokstad early yesterday.

At the time of going to press they had spent more than 17 hours trapped in the snow on the R617 between Swartberg and Kokstad.

Two empty buses, a truck and bakkie were also stranded on the same stretch.

By 9 pm last night, emergency services were still trying to reach the passengers to rescue them.

Bus driver Jeremiah Masola told The Witness he and his passengers were stranded at 4 am yesterday.

“I have 35 passengers in my bus including children. All of them are cold and are hungry as there is no food or blankets here.

“We have received no assistance and right now we are hoping that the road is cleared so we could continue with the journey,” he said.

Transport Department spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said emergency staff had not been able to get close to the trapped passengers.

“We sent a grader there to move the snow, but I understand that the grader also got stuck.”

He said very low temperatures were impeding rescue efforts.

“We are now looking at other possibilities that if we cannot move the vehicles from the snow we will just move the passengers to safety.”

Ncalane said they had also taken the decision to close Van Reenen’s pass again last night.

“We had to rescue five trucks from the snow.”

Late last night, as heavy rain fell in some areas, it was reported to be snowing heavily in the Midlands, with low visibility on the R103.

It was reported last last night that the Midlands area experience heavy snow fall on the R103.

The snow also affected schooling in several districts, including Umgungundlovu, Sisonke and Uthukela

A total of 371 schools were closed due to the weather, KZN Education spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa said.

He warned parents not to send their children to school if they could be in danger.

KZN Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said about 200 trucks were stacked at Tugela toll plaza to prevent them going up Van Reenen’s Pass, while cars were diverted towards Newcastle.

Road Traffic Inspectorate spokesperson Zinhle Mngomezulu said in the south of KZN, the N2 between Harding and Kokstad and the P609 to Matatiele were re-opened to traffic. Mngomezulu said one man died and two were injured in a truck collision on the R103 between Ladysmith and Newcastle.

Netcare reported that a man was seriously injured after falling eight metres from a silo on a snow-covered farm in Nottingham Road.

Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube placed the province on red alert and activated all provincial departments to remain on stand-by.

Gavin Raubenheimer of the Mountain Club of SA Search and Rescue said that they had not been called out to rescue any­one trapped in snow. Musa Mntambo, an Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesperson, said he was unaware of reports of people trapped in the Berg, but had reports of people trapped in snow at Entsikeni, near Umzimkhulu.

Weather forecaster Wiseman Dlamini said not much snow was expected today, while the weather was expected to improve by tomorrow.

IN a few short hours yesterday the Midlands was transformed by a thick blanket of snow enjoyed by residents from all parts of KwaZulu-Natal, some of whom travelled from afar just to experience it for themselves.

Young and old braved the chilly conditions — some in flip flops — for the fun part of the big chill.

With cars parked on the side of the road, a contingent of police and traffic officers kept watch near the N3 off-ramp that leads up to Nottingham Road.

People had fun diving through the snow, making snow angels, building snowmen, throwing snowballs and taking photos.

Three-year-old Jordan Hope from Durban North came along with his mother Rachelle and aunt Kayle Dean.

“We are making a snowman,” an enthusiastic Jordan told The Witness, adding that it was the first time he had ever made one.

Dean said although she has seen snow before, it was the first time she had seen it in SA.

Some had travelled from Amanzimtoti to enjoy the cold weather near the Midlands.

South Coast mom Michelle Reinhardt brought her four-year-old daughters, Tayla and Megan, home early from nursery school, along with her own mum, Joan de Beer, to build snowmen in Nottingham Road.

Durbanite Craig Weber was more daring, arriving in nothing but shorts and flip flops.

“You better believe it that we came here from Durban to see the snow,” Weber said, walking around with one shoe on.

“All that’s missing now is a Weber braai,” he joked.

He was later seen wearing shoes on both feet as the cold got to him.

It was not only Durbanites, as Pietermaritzburg was also represented by those who had gone up to see the snow for the first time.

Among them was nine-year-old Yumna Salim with her parents, mom Kathija and dad Rished.

“It’s my first time [playing in snow]. I like it, it’s nice, but it’s cold,” she said.

For residents around the provincial capital, the big suprise was that it snowed, albeit briefly, as far down as Hilton.

The top of Swartkops hill behind Sweetwaters had an icing-sugar like dusting of snow on it that was visible for a time before it melted as more rain fell

Hilton residents said the snow began as sleet at around 8.30 am and progressed to flakes that settled on the ground before dissipating quickly in more rain.

It lasted about 30 minutes and was over by 9 am.

It last snowed in Hilton in 2005, say residents.

Hilton resident Julia Denny-Dimitriou said: “We have lived here for over 10 years and this is the first time it has snowed. At first there were just a few flakes floating gently down between the raindrops, and then the rain subsided and it really snowed. Sadly, it did not lie on the ground, so it was probably really sleet.

“It was beautiful to watch and would have been quite a moving and reverent experience, but for the St Anne’s girls’ very loud excitement. I am sure you could hear them all over the village.

“Their enthusiasm was infectious and made it feel like holiday. Everywhere I went people were smiling snow smiles and talking ‘snow’.”

For the leisure industry in the Berg, snow meant more guests.

Champagne Castle Hotel and the Sani Pass Hotel and Leisure Resort reported a high number of calls from interested people.

The snow created a lot of excitement at the Cavern Drakens­berg Resort where guests and those from other resorts around the area were competing on who could make the biggest snowman.

In Sani Pass the snow was up to knee height yesterday morning.

Weather forecaster Wisani Maluleke said Giant’s Castle’s maximum temperature was an icy 0,2 °C yesterday.

“We normally get a maximum of about 9 °C in that area in this kind of weather, and a maximum of between 17 °C and 20 °C in normal weather.”

Not much snow is expected to fall today.

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