Tue, 23 April 2019

A strange west moving cutoff low pressure system has caused storm havoc and at least 51 deaths in KZN, with rainfalls of up to 300mm moving down to the South Coast, writes Spike.

Durban residents watched in fascination and horror yesterday evening as a light drizzle and a crisp SW offshore turned into stormwater armegeddon. Surfer Mike Frew said that the wind went variable and the rain began falling heavier.

But that was merely a portant of things to come. "At about 8.30pm it went nuclear: 30-40 knot SE, hardcore rain and thunderstorm. It carried on all night till about 5am."

Widespread reports indicate massive damage and at least 51 deaths, and multiple injuries, as stormwater washed sides of hills away and houses collapsed. Entire trees and chunks of earth were swept down by the floods, while a road in Amamzimtoti was washed away.


According to one report, a collapsing house in Queensburgh killed four people, including a baby, while police were searching for an adult and two children still believed trapped beneath the rubble.

This morning, the storm had moved south and was pummelling the South Coast with massive rain. See above video showing a house in Green Point under deluge.

The cutoff low developed close to the coast, and then began to move in a very curious southward track. Low pressure systems normally move in a west to east arc. Unusually warm ocean water has also been reported. A strong high has completely dominated the ocean below South Africa.

Tropical lows normally form above these systems, and its reasonable to assume that if the system had developed further out, it would have become a cyclone. Engorged rivers have leeched a vast slick of muddy water and debris up to 17km offshore in places. Rivers all down the KZN and Wild Coast are still pouring mud into the sea.

The Wild Swim, a special initiative to raise awareness and funds for the Xolobeni region to stop a huge titanium mine, looks unlikely to proceed, but organisers will potentially turn it into the Wild Walk after a decision was made that it is too late in the planning to abort. Read about the project (and support the Wavesape fundraising drive for it) by clicking here

Strange days indeed.

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