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Dam levels in Northern Cape rise as cyclone Eloise dies out, hot weather expected again

The Northern Cape is, for the first time in years, finding some relief after heavy rainfall resulted in the unusual sight of overflowing rivers.

The province was declared a drought disaster area in 2020. Then, in January, tropical storm Chalane brought rain to parts of the Northern Cape, resulting in streets flooding in Olifantshoek. Ordinarily dry areas such as Prieska, Kenhardt, Kakamas, Britstown and Calvinia also had some rain. 

More was to come as tropical cyclone Eloise made landfall in Madagascar on 19 January.

Meteorologist Annette Venter explains that “Eloise, who has by now died out, caused a low-pressure system carrying a large amount of moisture to the western parts of the country [South Africa] resulting in heavy rains over the dry province as well as the Free State, North West and Namibia.”

More rain resulted in a significant rise in the Northern Cape’s dam levels. The department of water and sanitation said that its latest dam levels and water reservoirs’ status in the province show a further positive increase of water volumes, while some dams are overflowing. 

The department said in a statement that the Vanderkloof Dam, which borders the Free State and Northern Cape provinces,” is spilling at a capacity of 111.07%”. 

“The Vaal Dam, which borders Free State and Gauteng, has risen to a storage capacity of 78.36% …  Bloemhof Dam is at 102% of its storage capacity [and] the Gariep Dam is 119.7% full. The Douglas Storage Weir peaked at a high of 136.4% yesterday [Sunday].”

But extreme hot weather is expected over the Northern Cape this weekend. 

“It is going to be extremely hot, dry and windy with the possibility of runaway fires over the western interior. There is still a possibility for a few isolated thunderstorms developing in the far northeastern parts in the vicinity of Kathu or Kimberley,” says Venter.

Meanwhile, dam levels are dropping in the Western Cape, a winter rainfall area. 

James Brent Styan, spokesperson for the Western Cape MEC for local government and environmental affairs, ascribes it to the summer season and said dam levels are the highest they have been in years.

“Dam levels in the Western Cape at this time of the year is at its highest level in six to eight years. We are in the middle of summer. Dam levels will show a daily decline [because] it does not rain continuously. But we are grateful for the good dam levels we have for this time of the year. The Western Cape traditionally follows a winter rainfall pattern. We look forward to when the levels will rise again.”

The South African Weather Service has issued a level two warning for the country’s eastern parts. Isolated to scattered showers and thunderstorms are expected to continue for the rest of the week and into the weekend over parts of North West, Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Gauteng.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a junior daily news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She was previously a freelance journalist and a broadcaster at Maroela Media and Smile90.4FM.

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