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PERFECT STORM

Two dead after high winds and wild seas wreak havoc on Eastern and Western Cape coasts

Two dead after high winds and wild seas wreak havoc on Eastern and Western Cape coasts
Waves lash the harbour wall in Gordon's Bay, 17 September 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

High waves, strong winds and the spring tide combined into a nightmare for coastal communities in the Western and Eastern Cape on Saturday and Sunday. Two people died, a famous rock formation was destroyed, hikers had to be evacuated from the Otter Trail and severe damage was inflicted on property, including some well-known seaside restaurants and infrastructure along the coastline.

Two people have died, and homeowners, businesses and municipalities along the Western and Eastern Cape coastlines were counting the costs on Sunday after damaging waves fuelled by a spring tide and very strong winds resulted in a perfect storm.

In Wilderness, Western Cape, a 93-year-old woman died after she was swept off her feet by a wave while she was watching the surf from a parking lot. The Kouga Municipality also confirmed that the body of an unknown man, estimated to be 68 years old, was found at Aston Bay near Jeffreys Bay in the Eastern Cape.

Pheelo Oliphant, spokesperson for the Eastern Cape’s Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), said there had been no reports of people being swept away by the rough sea, so at this stage they were not sure where the body had come from.

Southern Cape police spokesperson Sergeant Chris Spies said they had not opened any cases in relation to the woman in Wilderness being swept away. He referred queries to the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI).

What is a perfect storm?

On Friday, the South African Weather Service issued an alert for damaging winds that would continue into the weekend. According to the Eastern Cape Department of Local Government, alerts were issued for gale-force winds with speeds of 60-70km/h and significant high waves of 5-7 metres.

Garth Sampson, from the South African Weather Service, said wind gusts reached top speeds of 95km/h in Gqeberha, Eastern Cape. 

Dr Gary Koekemoer, a Gqeberha-based environmentalist and one of the city leaders developing a resilience plan for the metro against climate change, said Nelson Mandela Bay last had a “perfect storm” similar to this in 2008. 

A perfect storm is caused by a strong low-pressure system, storm winds and spring tide coinciding.

Koekemoer said he “slipped in a quick swim” between storm tides.

“I don’t think this storm was caused by climate change, but as sea volumes rise these storm surges would get more severe and more frequent because of climate change,” he said. 

On Sunday afternoon the NSRI issued a further warning for a “new moon” spring tide along the Western Cape and Eastern Cape coastlines.

Waves battered the Brass Bell in Kalk Bay on Sunday, 17 September 2023. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

First reports

On Saturday, there were reports of storm surges causing high and damaging waves along the Western Cape, including areas such as Kalk Bay and Gordon’s Bay in the City of Cape Town. In George and Mossel Bay and the southern Cape, roads and beaches were closed.

South African Weather Service forecaster Lehlohonolo Thobela said spring tide was a common occurrence in South Africa. He also confirmed the disruptive weather would last into Sunday afternoon and Monday morning.

Thobela said warnings of damaging winds and destruction to infrastructure along the coast were issued in the southern and eastern parts of the country. 

George

In George, the municipality has closed all beaches to pedestrians and vehicles owing to the high tides and rough water conditions. In an update on Sunday morning, the municipality’s Disaster Management and service teams were on standby on high alert and were “closely monitoring the situation”. 

More high tide surges were forecast for Sunday afternoon, with swells of up to 2.9 metres. “Therefore, all-out cleaning and mop-up operations are not being conducted for the day. However, the Municipal Community Services will clear the debris,” the municipality said. 

Damage to infrastructure was being assessed and some areas near George’s beaches were without power.

Wilderness

In Wilderness, the Knysna-Plett Herald reported that the NSRI had confirmed that a 93-year-old woman died when she was swept off her feet at Leentjiesklip. 

A resident takes a video of one of the houses that was damaged on Beach Road above Bikini Beach, 17 September 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

City of Cape Town 

By Sunday morning, the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management Centre said the coastal areas around Gordon’s Bay and Kalk Bay experienced “excessive” waves and strong winds, which had impacted on communities. 

Disaster management teams had started impact assessments in those areas, and initial assessments indicated that garage doors on eight properties in the Bikini Beach areas of Gordon’s Bay were damaged, with sand and debris covering the affected areas. There were also reports of damage to the St James tidal pool, with excessive sand and rocks being deposited in subway tunnels. 

No injuries or deaths have been reported in the city. “The City cautions residents to avoid coastal areas as a precaution,” a statement read.

Joy van Eeden, who lives on the beach in Gordon’s Bay, said she and a group of friends were at a local yacht club when she came home to charge her phone. While at home, she saw the rough sea conditions and decided to move her car into her garage. 

“Then I saw a bigger wave.” She then told her son’s friend to move his car into a garage to prevent it from being swept away. 

“Other cars were not so lucky,” Van Eeden said, as a bakkie had been caught in the waves. 

Overnight, the rough waves and strong winds bent her garage door (made of wood and steel), “breaking it out of the hinges”. In addition, her freezer, located in the garage, was floating in the water. 

When Van Eeden woke up this morning, she saw “lots of debris” near her house. She said Solid Waste teams were busy cleaning up the mess. 

On Saturday, videos spread of damage to the Brass Bell, a beach restaurant in Kalk Bay. The City said assessments showed that seating areas had been damaged, windows were broken and the indoor tidal pool was filled with sand and rocks. One person sustained minor injuries. 

The road past the tidal pool at Jongensfontein was covered with sand, 17 September 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

The Brass Bell in Kalk Bay was left flooded after large swells hit the coast. (Photo: Facebook)

The Brass Bell in Kalk Bay suffered some damage after the storm in Cape Town. (Photo: Facebook)

Still Bay and Jongensfontein

Hessequa mayor Grant Riddles said coastal areas in the municipality were damaged, including the Still Bay harbour, and roads were damaged in areas such as Witsand and Gouritzmond. Municipal teams had already been dispatched to start cleanup operations, he confirmed.

John Wills, from the Jongensfontein coastal settlement in the Hessequa municipality, described Saturday’s waves as “like an angry sea”. Wills, who is a member of the local ratepayers association, said some of the residents had said “they’ve never seen a sea as bad as yesterday”.

Totting up the damage, Wills said two cars had been swept into the sea and only one had been recovered. A pedestrian pathway – made of stone and concrete, had been destroyed. “All of that has been ripped,” he said.

Residences close to the sea were damaged, including garage doors. Debris was strewn across roads and electrical boxes were damaged, which left parts of the settlement without electricity. Wills described the waves as being 20-25 metres high.

He said the Hessequa municipality sent teams to clean the roads and fix the disrupted power supply. Electricity supply was “fairly close” to being completely restored, he said on Sunday afternoon. Wills said clean-up operations were under way and could take up to the rest of the week while fixing the damage could take up to six months.

Mossel Bay

In Mossel Bay, the municipality says mop-up operations will start on Monday, 18 September. An initial damage risk assessment found substantial damage to access points at several beaches. Damage to private property in close proximity to the ocean was also noted. 

Public access to First and Second beaches in Dana Bay and Glentana Beach remained closed. The Mossel Bay municipal environmental team has reported superficial damage to beaches including Dias and Klein Brak– which included vegetative dunes along the coast being removed to some degree. In general, sand and debris have been washed on to some parking areas and roads near the ocean. 

Waves washed up against the mountain in Betty’s Bay. (Photo: Facebook)

Large sections of the coast were affected by the storm, including Betty’s Bay. (Photo: Facebook)

Overstrand

The Western Cape Department of Local Government said no incidents were reported in the Overstrand municipality (Hermanus, Betty’s Bay and surrounds). 

West Coast

In the West Coast District Municipality, Saldanha Bay was affected by seawater on the roads and a whale washed up at Dwarskersbos. 

A massive storm with gale-force winds drove long lines of huge waves down the coast, causing damage to infrastructure in Nelson Mandela Bay on 17 September 2023. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Nelson Mandela Bay

In Nelson Mandela Bay, all beaches in the municipality remained open, but the metro issued a warning to the public to be cautious.

“The disruptive weather resulted in access being blocked in some beaches, and the Metro is still assessing the damage caused in some of its beaches,” said spokesperson Mamela Ndamase.

The metro’s Mayoral Committee Member for Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture, Bassie Kamana, said the mop-up operation started on Sunday morning following notable damage on Saturday.

“Everyone should be careful along the coastal area. Our teams including lifeguards are on the ground to ensure safety around our beaches. But we really warn residents not to swim today; the weather conditions are not friendly. We will have a meeting on Monday morning to assess the extent of the damage caused, but our teams already started this morning cleaning the parking areas that were affected by the waves,” he said.

James Prinsloo, who is the electrician at the Willows Beach Resort in Gqeberha, lives close to Willows Gate Number 5. His house was flooded and several wendy houses on the premises were pulled into the sea. Several caravans were also destroyed by the storm surges.

Gale-force winds caused havoc in Nelson Mandela Bay 17 September 2023. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

A storm swept into Nelson Mandela Bay on 17 September 2023 destroying property on the coast. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

A massive storm with gale-force winds caused damage to infrastructure in Nelson Mandela Bay. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

“I am just thankful that this thing didn’t catch us at night,” he said. “We were warned, but we never thought it would be this bad. Every now and again, the sea will come over the road and there will be foam in the parking lot and so on,” he said. 

“I have this little kitten called Mia. I was working in the house and suddenly I heard her scream and she climbed on the roof trusses. You know a cat and water are not friends. And we just saw it coming, and coming, and not stopping, and coming and we ran. We had to be very quick to pull our cars away. There is a lot of damage here to our ablution blocks. Only the chassis is left of some of the caravans.”

“I have been cleaning all day. The house is full of mud and seaweed. You can see the sea ran through it.”

James Prinsloo in Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) Eastern Cape assesses damage to his family’s property, 17 September 2023. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Tsitsikamma and Stormsriver

SANParks spokesperson Phokela Lebea said the storm surge and a high spring tide caused severe damage to the temporary restaurant, operated by Cattle Baron, at the Storms River Mouth camp in the Tsitsikamma Park. It will remain closed.

Untouched Adventures, operating from Storms River Mouth, said this past weekend’s seas were the wildest they’d seen in decades, and a few of their kayaks were now “floating to Antarctica”.

“All guests on the Otter Trail have been successfully evacuated through designated escape routes, ensuring their safety throughout the storm surge. We appreciate their cooperation and understanding. The Waterfall hiking trail and the Mouth trails [suspension bridge] have been temporarily closed. This decision has been made to ensure the safety of our visitors,” Lebea said.

Cattle Baron Tsitsikamma Seafood Grill & Bistro in the Tsitsikamma National Park was destroyed by the high tides. (Photo: Supplied)

Cattle Baron Tsitsikamma Seafood Grill & Bistro in the Tsitsikamma National Park was destroyed by the high tides that took part yesterday. (Photo: Supplied)

“Nature’s Valley Camp remains temporarily closed due to flooding. Park management is actively addressing the situation and conducting necessary assessments. We are committed to reopening the camp as soon as it is safe to do so.

“The Wilderness and Knysna sections of the Garden Route National Park are also affected by the storm surge and high spring tide with minimal damage to infrastructure. The parks are accessible to the public and remain on high alert. Park management is currently assessing the damage,” he said.

“No injuries are currently reported in the Garden Route National Park. Members of the public are urged to exercise caution when visiting this area and also check the South African Weather Service for weather alerts and warnings.”

Flooding in St Francis. (Photo: Supplied)

Jeffreys Bay

On Sunday afternoon, the NSRI issued a further warning for extremely rough sea conditions at high tide in Jeffreys Bay. People were asked to stay off the beaches and stay away from jetties.

The body of a yet-to-be-identified man, estimated to be 68 years old, also washed up at Aston Bay.

Kouga municipality issued a warning that the Aston Bay Causeway was closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic as it is considered a high-risk area. On Sunday afternoon the municipality started work repairing the spit that was flooded, leaving the St Francis Bay canals exposed.

Jeffreys Bay’s well-known Walskipper beachfront restaurant was flooded and has been temporarily closed for repairs. 

Kenton-on-Sea

According to a statement from Bushman’s River/Kenton on Sea Tourism, the storm surge on Saturday night destroyed the iconic Carriage Rock that had been a beacon in Kenton-on-Sea for decades.

Kenton-on-Sea’s iconic ‘Carriage Rock’ was destroyed in the storm surge. This is an old image of the rock. (Source: Kenton-on-Sea Tourism)

Port Alfred

Port Alfred’s CBD was flooded and the Ndlambe Municipality sent out a flood warning on Saturday.

“The Ndlambe Municipality has closed off some affected streets in the CBD. We emphasise that motorists should not drive through the water. At this stage, it is not possible to determine the extent of the damage, but Ndlambe Municipal officials will continue to monitor the situation,” the municipality said.

East London

Ocean Way in Gonubie was closed owing to storm damage and strong winds fuelled a fire that destroyed at least 50 informal homes in Nompumelelo, outside Beacon Bay in East London. No injuries or fatalities were reported. 

Eastern Cape Disaster Management

Pheelo Oliphant, the Eastern Cape Cogta spokesperson, said they hadn’t received any official notifications of damage. 

“The provincial Disaster Management Centre in the Eastern Cape has not officially reported accidents arising from the sea storms that occurred over the weekend,” Oliphant said. 

NSRI

The NSRI has called for the public to continue being vigilant. 

Andrew Ingram, NSRI drowning prevention manager, said at least three pink buoys washed up in Wilderness and one in Kleinmond where some coastal damage had occurred. The buoys will be placed back on duty on their poles.

“The NSRI are appealing to the public to report any pink buoys, found washed up, to our Emergency Operations Centre on the NSRI Emergencies-Only 24-hour contact number 0870949774.

“We appeal to the public and maritime community to be cautious and to stay safe around the coast where heavy sea swells and gale-force winds may affect the coastline,” he added. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Louise Louise says:

    “Koekemoer said he “slipped in a quick swim” between storm tides.

    “I don’t think this storm was caused by climate change, but as sea volumes rise these storm surges would get more severe and more frequent because of climate change,” he said. ”

    We get Spring tides every year, some more wild than others, it just so happens this year it was really bad. I don’t know what the 200 year tide mark shows. But in any case, “climate change” happens due to the fact that our planet is constantly changing, as it has done so for millions/billions of years. The only “man made” climate change is the illegal and immoral use of geoengineering and weather-altering technology. These techniques are in the public domain and not secret but nobody in the main press seems to care about these nefarious technologies? Look at Maui, that was clearly NOT a “wildfire”. But the “anthropogenic climate change” promoters use natural and illegal weather occurrences to keep pushing the “net zero” agenda that will kill everyone eventually. CO2 is NOT a toxic gas for our planet – it is the GAS OF LIFE. Without CO2 we will die. The so-called “experts” who are pushing wildly expensive “climate” taxes and programs don’t even know that CO2 is 0.04% of our atmosphere. It’s not about climate, it’s about control.

    • Steve Davidson says:

      Sorry Louise, but you’re wrong. Even the disgusting people in oil and gas, like Exxon, who kept the knowledge secret for about forty years, now accept what the scientists have been telling us for years about climate change being accelerated by carbon dioxide. Are you commenting from a religious standpoint, or do you have scientific evidence to back up your story?

      • Louise Louise says:

        Sorry Steve, but there is zero evidence that carbon emissions drives CO2 levels. Absolutely none. It is the SUN that drives CO2 levels. Farmers and gardeners pump CO2 into their greenhouses to assist plants with growth – without CO2 we will die. We are all carbon based – humans, plants, everything. The “climate change” hoax has been perpetrated for decades, started by the Club of Rome in the 1970s. Another “think tank” that decided that humans were the enemy of mankind. No, I’m not religious – I listen to qualified scientists who can explain very well about CO2. The levels in our atmosphere are miniscule – 0.04%, of which a tiny fraction is from human activity. The levels of CO2 have been higher in the history of our planet and guess what?! It was well before the industrial revolution! So no, there are far too many holes in the arguments of the climate hoax pushers, starting with Al Gore and his ridiculous “hockey stick” fraud. I can’t post links here so I would have to ask you to search on scientists who refute the hoax. There has been a very recent declaration by many scientists (including in South Africa) who confirm the CO2 hoax. If you look up the World Climate Declaration with 1609 signatories I’m sure you will find the document.

        • Steve Davidson says:

          Louise, you really do need to do some research before forwarding this sort of rubbish.

          All I needed to do was to google your words “World Climate Declaration with 1609 signatories” and immediately came up with a plethora of links, such as this article from this past Saturday’s Euronews, which I know as a reasonably reliable source, that show us it’s all a load of tosh, with the heading:

          “Fact check: Did 1,200 climate experts sign ‘declaration’ denying climate emergency?”

          as I scrolled down, I came upon this bit: “The two main Dutch actors behind the declaration are Guus Berkhout, a retired geophysicist who has worked for oil giant Shell, and journalist Marcel Crok. Both have been accused of receiving money from fossil fuel companies to finance their climate-sceptic work. They deny the allegations,” (of course they bloody well would – a pair of lying SOBs if you’ll pardon my French).

          I see a similar trend as with the anti-vaxxing/hydrochloroquine/Ivermectin BS from 2020 onwards, unfortunately once again probably thanks in large degree to the religious bigots who use a book of fairy tales to satisfy their stupidity and reject any science that disturbs their stupid views – like the world was created in 6000 years (used to be 6 days but even theyr realised that was ridiculous enough) and that Mary being a virgin wasn’t just a mistranslation from the Ancient Hebrew.

          • Kanu Sukha says:

            Hi Steve. It is time we realised that the Donald Trump syndrome encapsulated in his famous (amongst many) ‘climate change is a hoax’ …. is very much alive and well !

      • A N says:

        Oh goodness so we’re now denying global warming and climate change as a conspiracy theory loaded in “geoengineering and weather altering technology”… I bet all the evidence is on YouTube!

        • Louise Louise says:

          Oh goodness me, all the evidence is documented with the US DOD, NASA etc. The warming of the planet happens naturally, and doesn’t need human intervention. The Earth changes over time, as it has done for millions/billions of years. For sure we need to stop polluting the planet – absolutely! But that doesn’t cause “climate change”. The fake “climate change” narrative is purely to tax everyone to the point of total control. The scam that is “carbon credits” must surely raise your eyebrows in question? If you think that these organisations and governments are doing everything to help the people and for the good of the people, then there’s a red pill awaiting you…………… if you dare!

        • Louise Louise says:

          Just as a last comment or 2! The recent eruption of Mount Etna adds to the CO2 in the atmosphere, as do all other volcano eruptions over the years. What would you like to do with the natural volcano eruptions? Charge them a tax? Apart from the fact that there is literally zero evidence that ordinary human and animal activity are creating problems in our climate, and the fact that CO2 is only 0.04% of our atmosphere, do you honestly think that by taxing the ‘great unwashed’ for everything that we do is going to make a ha’porth of difference?! Using the terms ‘denier’ and ‘conspiracy theorist’ simply add weight to the argument that people have been browbeaten into believing that these terms actually mean anything. Resorting to pejorative name calling also confirms that alethophobia reigns supreme!

  • Louise Louise says:

    Oh goodness me, all the evidence is documented with the US DOD, NASA etc. The warming of the planet happens naturally, and doesn’t need human intervention. The Earth changes over time, as it has done for millions/billions of years. For sure we need to stop polluting the planet – absolutely! But that doesn’t cause “climate change”. The fake “climate change” narrative is purely to tax everyone to the point of total control. The scam that is “carbon credits” must surely raise your eyebrows in question? If you think that these organisations and governments are doing everything to help the people and for the good of the people, then there’s a red pill awaiting you…………… if you dare!

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