Noah and the ark; biblical weather hits Robertson

2014 has started with a bolt of lightening. The weather in the second week of the year has been extraordinary. About 140mm of rain lashed the Robertson area last week and caused flooding in the valley not unlike the legendary 1981 floods.

Excelsior under water

January is usually known as a month of drought and fire warnings, and this rain couldn’t have come at a worse time for some of our neighbours who are trying to harvest their fruit crop. One neighbour is in particularly dire straights as he can’t get across the river to harvest his (excellent) crop of cling peaches. Below is an image of a peach from Montague, the neighbouring town.

Montague peach

This is the time of year, towards the end of the growing season and before harvest, to carefully control irrigation into the vineyards – you don’t want to the vines to be so thirsty that the grapes shrivel up but nor do you want to go the other way and dilute the flavours.

The intense rain fell on hard ground and while some was absorbed, the sheer volume of water meant some blocks were flooded and have had to be drained. The R60 between Robertson and Ashton had to be closed and two people died; they were washed into the Breede River by a surge having taken cover from the rain under a bridge.

Excelsior under water

Even the dam was overflowing and, just to complete the biblical scene, some fish swam out into the vineyards!

In terms of the grapes the worry is that damp conditions within the bunches greatly increase the risk of botrytis and downy mildew. But the forecast looks set to return to the usual bright sunshine and we remain hopeful of blue skies ahead.

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