Over 250 lightning bolts strike the city

2019-02-05 15:11
Ayanda Xulu fools around outside DUT Riverside campus that lived up to its name after it was flooded during Sunday’s storm.

Ayanda Xulu fools around outside DUT Riverside campus that lived up to its name after it was flooded during Sunday’s storm. (ian carbutt)

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With wind speeds of 43 km/h and 259 lightning strikes and flashes recorded in just one hour, the storm that hit Pietermaritzburg on Sunday led to multiple power outages across the city, water logged roads and fallen trees.

The sudden storm hit the city and surrounding areas, seemingly out of nowhere, at around 7.30 pm on Sunday, starting with gusting winds and a torrent of rain.

People reported fallen trees blocking parts of the R614 between Pietermaritzburg and Wartburg as well as on the Sweetwaters Road in Pietermaritzburg.

Others reported a tree that had fallen over across the Peter Brown Bridge off-ramp, as well as fallen electricity poles in Chase Valley and Winterskloof.

University of KwaZulu-Natal agrometeorologist Dr Alistair Clulow said that according to data collected by UKZN, 259 lightning flashes and strikes were recorded in the Pietermaritzburg area in an hour. “This is quite a lot for one storm,” said Clulow.

He added that a weather station near Wartburg recorded 256 strikes and flashes for the area.

Clulow said it was unusual for the lightning strikes to be higher in the city than in Wartburg but said Pietermaritzburg may have faced the more intense part of the storm.

Clulow recorded about 22mm of rainfall at the university on Sunday and around the same amount in the Clarendon area. An Ashburton resident also recorded 22mm of rain in her garden.

“The rain may not seem like much but that amount over an entire landscape in 10 minutes or so leads to torrents of water in the drainage systems, and sometimes on the roads,” said Clulow.

Power outages were reported at the Retief Primary breaker, Sweetwaters/Highfield breaker, affecting areas around Blackridge, Sweetwaters, Hilton and Winterskloof.

Other parts of Pietermaritzburg that were affected were Chase Valley, Townbush, Montrose, Old Howick Road as well as Glenwood, Thembalihle, Bishopstowe, Copesville and Haniville.

Most affected areas in Pietermaritzburg had power restored by midday on Monday.

Msunduzi’s fire department said on Monday that the municipality’s disaster management teams had been called out to Edendale and the Taylor’s Halt area, which had been most affected by the storm.

The department said the teams were still busy in the affected areas by late afternoon on Monday.

Msunduzi Municipality had not responded to questions about the outages at the time of going to print on Monday evening.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  lightning strike
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