Snow Causing major Headache in South Africa

The South African government has set up a national joint operations committee to coordinate the response to the icy conditions that have affected roads in parts of the country.

The move follows the heavy snowfalls and rain across parts of the Eastern Cape and part of KwaZulu-Natal, resulting in the closure of several national roads.

Emergency services personnel have been working around the clock to ensure that the affected roads and road users are safe.

“Over the past 24 hours, extremely heavy snowfalls and rain have been experienced across large parts of the country, resulting in the closure of various roads,” Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said on Tuesday.

Drive slowly; postpone long trips

He urged motorists to drive with caution. “We are calling upon all motorists to stay alert, slow down and stay in control.

“Drive with your headlamps on at all times, and adjust your driving habits to the prevailing weather conditions,” Ndebele said. “Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you to avoid situations where you may have to brake suddenly on a slippery surface.”

Ndebele further urged motorists who are planning to travel between Johannesburg and Durban to postpone their trips until the snow subsides and weather conditions improve.

“Every effort is being made to ensure safe roads and to provide an efficient road maintenance and public safety service to road users,” he said.

Stay informed

Road users may call 083 343 9565 or 071 680 3448 (all hours) for information on road closures, alternative routes, weather patterns, emergencies and tips on driving in adverse conditions.

The N3TC Route Control Centre may also be reached on 0800 63 4357 regarding the N3 between Cedara and Heidelberg.

Snow in South Africa is relatively rare, and vehicles and motorists are therefore ill-equipped to handle what is a very dangerous driving condition.

The acting CEO of the Road Traffic Management Corporation, Collins Letsoalo, said: “We appeal to all road users to exercise caution and not to take any unnecessary risks.

“Even if you are driving a car fitted with the best of active and passive safety features, be constantly aware of your surroundings.”

Weather forecast

The South African Weather Service (SAWS) warned on Tuesday that cold weather conditions would persist in most parts of the country until Thursday.

According to Tshepo Ngobeni at the SAWS, provinces like Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Gauteng will continue to experience cold weather conditions on Wednesday and Thursday.

With regard to KwaZulu-Natal, Ngobeni said thundershowers and very cold weather were expected in the province.

“We are expecting snow in some parts of Mpumalanga [on Tuesday night], and this will increase cold weather conditions in the neighbouring provinces such as Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal,” he said.

In Gauteng, cold weather as a result of the snow in the Eastern Cape is expected to persist until Thursday.

Apart from the snow expected in Mpumalanga, Limpopo will experience sunny conditions. No rain is expected in the province.

Motorists in KwaZulu-Natal and in the Eastern Cape are advised to drive with their headlamps on as visibility is poor.

The national joint operations committee includes representatives from the police, the Defence Force, SA National Roads Agency, Provincial Disaster Management, Road Traffic Management Corporation, and National Disaster Management Centre of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.