As you may have heard on the news, severe weather has been affecting many parts of the country. Snow in Pretoria for the first time since 1968, howling gales in Cape Town and flooding in the Eastern and Western Cape.
We haven’t escaped our fair share of dramatic weather and experienced an abnormal dump of snow in the mountains surrounding the Breede River valley followed by several heavy rain storms. About 58.8ml fell in 24 hours in the Montagu area, 72.8ml Swellendam in the same period we received approx 49mm. The local road between Ashton and Montagu was closed and an ambulance driver, Miriam Cekiso, was killed when she was washed away by the flood water of the Breede River.
The Cogmanskloof river which runs through Excelsior normally looks like little more than a stream but overnight it was dramatically transformed into an angry raging torrent. The usually sturdy bridge which connects one part of the farm to the other was totally submerged cutting off access to the citrus and some of the vines. It literally disappeared under feet of swirling muddy water as if it had never existed.
While flooding is not an uncommon experience during winter, it is rare to reach these levels and rarely exceeds the levels we have just experienced. In 1981 there was an enormous flood which killed tens of people – two bodies were recovered on the farm. It seems that substantial floods are becoming more frequent; could this be a result a global warming?
Debris from further upstream became wedged in the bridge causing waves and swirling eddies as the water rushed and pushed its way over and around the blockage. The violent, corrosive action of the water ate away at the banks of the river near the bridge and sections of the road were seriously damaged leaving large gaping holes.
The water still isn’t back to its normal level but it has come down enough to get out the big machines! The Komatsu digger was able to do in moments what people would have really struggled with – remove the debris blocking the even flow of water under and over the bridge. Awe at nature’s great power gave way to awe at the strength and dexterity of big machines!
We’ll have to wait for the water to drop further in order to assess the damage to the bridge (we think there is still a bridge!) and to repair it.
Fortunately for Excelsior the flood damage and the cost to repair it is not excessive. Timing is everything – luckily the flood hit in winter which means the vines are dormant so there will be minimal impact but should the same thing occur during the summer months there would be a grave risk of fungus and ‘excess stress’ on the vines …and the farmers!
In the news…