Little escape from the cold in South Africa

Passengers on board the train that left Johannesburg for Cape Town on Monday will want to wrap up warmly, especially those in third class.

When it passes through the Karoo railway junction town of De Aar in the small hours at about 11pm, the mercury will be on its way to plummeting down to minus eight degrees Celsius.

According to the South African Weather Service, isolated De Aar is expected to suffer the lowest temperatures in South Africa on Tuesday, brought about the current big chill.

The lines out of De Aar will provide little escape: Kimberley and Vryburg, hundreds of kilometres up the track towards warmer central South Africa, will be minus seven and minus six respectively.

Upington, on the line towards Namibia, will be minus four and Klerksdorp, back in the direction of Johannesburg, will be minus five.

However, there will be warmth from De Aar towards the end of the line with minimum temperatures in Beaufort West only two degrees, Worcester five and Cape Town seven.

Cape Town spent Monday picking up from stormy weather that struck over the weekend, forcing 800 people to evacuate their homes as floods struck across the Cape Flats in areas including New Crossroads, Guguletu, Nyanga, Ravensmead, Mitchells Plain, Philippi and Langa.

South African Weather Service forecaster Stella Nake said Cape Town can expect another cold front on Thursday.

A strong south-westerly wind is expected to pick up on Thursday afternoon followed by rain until the early hours of Friday morning, she said.

Further east, near George, long-time resident Claude Pretorius, who is adviser to a women-owned project that involves building a cableway up the Outeniqua mountains, said he had never seen snow as far below the peaks.

“It’s 600m from the peaks. It’s normally only 100m or 150m,” he said.

“I have never seen snow that low down on the mountain — and I was at school here before [World war II].”

The Weather Bureau reported snowfalls on other Eastern Cape and Western Cape mountains: Hogsback; Tsitsikamma; Winterberg; the Penhoek Pass and the Baboesberge.

In Lesotho, missionary pilots battled to operate in the south of the country.

“Things seem alright on the Bloemfontein side of the country but there’s cold weather coming up from Grahamstown,” said Melvin Peters of the Mission Aviation Fellowship shortly after coming into Maseru from the mountain airstrip of Manamaneng on Monday morning.

He said two of his colleagues had battled to get out of airstrips in the south.

Peters said the temperature he read on his analogue thermometer read minus-18 degrees at 12 800 feet.

“That’s the coldest I’ve ever seen it in the seven years I’ve been here,” said the Canadian pilot, whose daily runs in Lesotho involve corkscrew landings at airstrips deep in the Maluti mountains in weather conditions that can see visibility drop in little time.

Peters’s job on Monday involved bringing a woman to hospital in Maseru from Manamaneng.

“She had a broken leg and there was a hole in the cast. They didn’t want to deal with it in the mountains.”

Manamaneng is close to Sani Pass, the road link between Lesotho and KwaZulu-Natal.

“It was very windy. I had a 45-knot tail wind,” said Peters, who has to always be weary of not risking flying into what he and his colleagues call “a granite cloud” — a cloud-covered peak. — Sapa

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