WATCH | Widespread damage as Pietermaritzburg, Midlands battered by hail stones the size of tennis balls

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The Wykeham Collegiate’s ice-covered field is surmounted by a rainbow after tennis ball-sized hailstones rained down on Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday.
The Wykeham Collegiate’s ice-covered field is surmounted by a rainbow after tennis ball-sized hailstones rained down on Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday.
Picture: Jackie Clausen
  • Pietermaritzburg and some areas in the KZN Midlands were battered by hail stones the size of golf balls and bigger on Wednesday afternoon
  • Msunduzi Municipality received reports of 18 houses being damaged by the storm
  • Msunduzi staff to work overtime, assessing the damage and providing relief where possible

Pietermaritzburg and some areas in the KZN Midlands were battered by hail stones the size of golf balls and bigger on Wednesday afternoon, damaging roof tiles, vehicles and windows.

While Howick and Hilton only caught the edge of the storm, with heavy rain and only small bits of hail being reported, large hailstones were also reported in the Wartburg and Dalton areas. The heavy rain caused flooding at several homes.

READ MORE | Thursday’s weather: Severe thunderstorms for KZN, Mpumalanga - mild, warm to hot in rest of SA

Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said on Wednesday night that they received reports of 18 houses being damaged by the storm; four in Ncwadi, another four in Ashdown, five in KwaPata, three at Jika Joe and two at Caluza.

“They [Jika Joe residents] need a TLB [tractor-loader-backhoe] to dig up a trench so that the water can go into the river but that’s obviously a short-term solution because their homes are on a flood plain. The problem is that we can’t even get that TLB because the municipality has only one ... and now I’ve been told that I’m on a waiting list but I can see the clouds already forming for round three.”
Msunduzi ward 33 councillor, Suraya Reddy

She said that staff would be working overtime, assessing the damage and providing relief where possible.

The low-level bridge at Woodhouse was also under water.

Councillor for Msunduzi ward 33, Suraya Reddy, said Jika Joe residents were flooded twice yesterday, the first time in the early hours of the morning when heavy rain hit Pietermaritzburg.

“They need a TLB [tractor-loader-backhoe] to dig up a trench so that the water can go into the river but that’s obviously a short-term solution because their homes are on a flood plain. The problem is that we can’t even get that TLB because the municipality has only one ... and now I’ve been told that I’m on a waiting list but I can see the clouds already forming for round three,” Reddy said.

Residents across the city were left counting the c
Residents across the city were left counting the cost after the huge hailstorm on Wednesday.
The shattered windscreen on this car is testament
The shattered windscreen on this car is testament to the massive hailstorm which hit the city.
A Witness reader used a tennis ball to show the si
A Witness reader used a tennis ball to show the size of some of the hailstones that hit Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday.
Some of the massive hailstones which caused damage
Some of the massive hailstones which caused damage to homes and cars in the city on Wednesday.
Some of the massive hailstones which caused damage
Some of the massive hailstones which caused damage to several homes and cars in the city.
Who needs a freezer? One Witness reader decided to
Who needs a freezer? One Witness reader decided to cool her wine with a few hailstones following the storm.
One Pietermaritzburg resident found an enterprisin
One Pietermaritzburg resident found an enterprising use for the hailstones left covering the ground.

In response to the lack of action from the council, Jika Joe residents staged a protest, blockading the road with burning logs and rocks, while the rain poured down on them.

Msunduzi Hospice, meanwhile, reported that a number of its vehicles were damaged in the storm, impacting their ability to visit patients.

They said alternative arrangements would be made.

“We were frightened and thought the house was going to collapse.”
Dalton resident

Residents struggling to contact the organisation were asked to use the office cell number, 082 699 9105.

Although the KwaZulu-Natal Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) confirmed that disaster management teams had been dispatched, uMgungundlovu District Council spokesperson Brian Zuma said their disaster management call centre had not received any requests for help from local municipalities.

Glass and windscreen shops across the city were, however, inundated with calls from residents wanting quotes for hail damage repair.

PICS | Eastern Cape storm: Severe weather wreaks havoc at Mthatha airport, damages schools and homes

Benny Williams, of PG Glass, said his phone had been ringing non-stop with people enquiring about the price of windscreens and rear (vehicle) lights.

At Glasfit, meanwhile, Renette le Roux said residents wanted information on how to replace house and car windows and back windshield glass for cars.

“My son was outside when we saw the thick dark cloud on the sky. We immediately ran inside the house [to seek refuge]. The gutters on the house were broken.”
Wartburg resident, Craig Lambert

And Clinton Konar, of Maritzburg Auto Glass, said that judging from the calls he got late on Wednesday afternoon, more people will be making enquiries on Thursday.

The Witness is also aware of many people who contacted their insurers soon after the hailstorm, but insurance companies contacted by the paper would not say whether or not they had received an influx of claims.

Residents in Wartburg, Dalton and Cool Air said the hail that caused havoc “sounded like gunshots” on the roof.

“We were frightened and thought the house was going to collapse,” said one.

“It sounded like gunshots on the roof. It happened in a short space of time; it did not last long.”
Wartburg resident, Craig Lambert

Wartburg resident Craig Lambert added: “It sounded like gunshots on the roof. It happened in a short space of time; it did not last long.

“My son was outside when we saw the thick dark cloud on the sky. We immediately ran inside the house [to seek refuge]. The gutters on the house were broken.”

Another Wartburg resident, Christine Hillermann, said of the storm: “It was massive. I have never seen something like this in my life.”

WEATHER WARNING | KwaZulu-Natal braces for more severe weather conditions

DA PR councillor in ward seven in uMshwathi, Raganie Thomas, said that while the storm only lasted 10 minutes, during that time, tennis ball-sized stones fell in Cool Air.

He added that he had not observed any major damage.

Mayor of uMshwathi Local Municipality, Mandla Zondi, urged motorists to exercise caution as heavy rains and more hailstorms were forecast this week.

The South African Weather Service (SAWS) described the hailstorm as an isolated event. The stormy conditions had moved north eastwards towards Stanger after hitting the city, it said.

They also warned that heavy storms were likely over the whole province and that those living in the northern areas of KZN could expect to receive rain into the early hours of this morning. Heavy rain continued over Pietermaritzburg for much of the evening.

Durban received 16,2 mm of rain in the early hours of Wednesday morning, leaving roads flooded and trees uprooted. Two people were seriously injured after a tree collapsed onto a passing taxi on Trafford Road in Westmead, in the city.

Public roads in Resevoir Hills and in Pinetown were also flooded.

KZN MEC for Cogta, Sipho Hlomuka, urged residents to avoid low-lying roads and bridges as they were susceptible to flooding.

He added that those who found themselves outside during a thunderstorm should seek shelter, but not under trees, telephone lines or power lines.

“It was massive. I have never seen something like this in my life.”
Wartburg resident, Christine Hillermann

The SAWS has issued a yellow level two warning for severe thunderstorms with damaging winds, hail, localised flooding, and excessive lightning for places over the eastern half of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

The extreme weather is connected to a storm front moving over the Eastern Cape.

In a post, Storm Report SA said the environment was perfect for thunderstorms to strengthen quickly and that they could potentially see one of these becoming a supercell event.

Power outages hit various areas across Pietermaritzburg

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said there was a faulty cable that resulted in certain roads in Northdale being without power including Khan, Deccan, and Ruby.

At Northdale Primary School, a breaker to Mysore/Lahore roads tripped causing outages in more areas.

She said parts of Hilton also experienced an outage, which was restored by 7 pm.

Outages affecting Bulwer Road, Woodlands and Lincoln Meade were being attended to on Wednesday night.

Residents in parts of Pelham and Prestbury were also without electricity.

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