Widespread snowfall interrupted morning routines on Tuesday, and South Africans took to the internet to share snow stories.
Weather South Africa forecaster Puseletso Mofokeng said it was snowing heavily in Lesotho and overnight snowfalls were reported in the Ukuhlamba Drakensberg area, the southern Free State, the Mpumalanga highveld and the high ground of the Eastern Cape.
“We expect the snowfall will be ending tonight [Tuesday],” said Mofokeng.
The unusual weather caused the closure of a long stretch of the N3 highway, between Van Reenen’s Pass and Villiers.
Truckers and other motorists were lined up just before the N3 off-ramp. Most of the Free State town of Harrismith’s petrol stations and stores were running on generators as the weather caused power failures.
“Nobody must even think of venturing out on the roads,” said resident Dries van Niekerk, owner of Dries Auto. “Today is a day to stay indoors and drink glühwein.”
He said this was the worst snow storm he had seen in the town since 1992.
In Newcastle, in northern KwaZulu-Natal, a South African Press Association reporter said the snow was 5cm thick. It was still snowing by 8.30am, with residents choosing to stay indoors.
The college in the town was closed while a taxi driver said commuters were stuck in the nearby Madadeni and Osizweni townships.
Botha’s Pass was also closed and the road into Newcastle had been blocked by police officers.
Newcastle residents were up early, with snow pictures being posted on Facebook from 5am.
Twitter users posted links to pictures of snow in Beaufort West and Victoria West in the Eastern Cape, and Volksrust in Mpumalanga.
News24 users sent in photos of children playing in heavy snow in Barkly East and Comfimvaba in the Eastern Cape, cars buried under thick layers of snow in Queenstown, and two adults posing proudly next to a snowman, seemingly not bothered by the cold.
Several Twitter users quoted the “weather service” as saying there could be “snow in Jozi” today.
Said forecaster Mofokeng: “It is more a possibility of sleet [frozen water] in the areas of Sasolburg and Heidelberg.”
He added that it would start getting warmer toward the end of the week, although maximum temperatures would still be low.
Other major routes such as the N5 and N11 have been closed at mountain passes due to snow. Motorists have been urged to postpone their journeys until conditions improved.
A number of roads in the Eastern Cape, including the N2 between Kokstad and Mount Ayliff, the Wapadsberg and Lootsberg passes, and the R72 between Kenton-on-Sea and Alexandria have also been closed.
Three warnings were issued for Tuesday — very cold conditions were expected in Mpumalanga, southern Gauteng, the north eastern Free State and Western KwaZulu-Natal.
A marine warning of very rough seas between East London and Maputo was also issued. — Sapa and Staff reporter