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The ‘angry sea’ just ‘kept coming’ – ‘frightening’ weekend storm batters coastal areas of SA

The ‘angry sea’ just ‘kept coming’ –  ‘frightening’ weekend storm batters coastal areas of SA
Massive waves behind a damaged home in Jongensfontein. 17 September 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Over the weekend, high swells, strong winds and the spring tide caused havoc in coastal areas of the Western and Eastern Cape, and also kwaZulu-Natal. As clean-up operations began, municipalities and residents counted the cost of the damage.

At first light on 17 September, residents of Gordon’s Bay stepped outside to view the damage caused by high swells on Saturday, trying to get into their garages to assess the damage to vehicles and storage spaces. At the destroyed Bikini Beach Villa a mattress lay on the floor, across which glass had been scattered as the sliding doors were shattered. 

Many homes were damaged from the sheer force of the water as waves pounded relentlessly on Saturday. 

Cape storm

Clean-up operations under way on Beach Road above Bikini Beach in Gordon’s Bay after huge waves battered homes on Saturday, 17 September 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

One street was littered with debris – sand, kelp, wood, plastic bottles and rocks strewn everywhere. Tree branches had fallen across the road, imprisoning locals whose vehicles had been moved up the road to higher ground.

This is not the first time that this has happened but this is the worst.

One resident, Elenore Baiocchi, who also looks after another home a few doors down, was photographing it and inspecting the damage to the garage door. An outside light dangled sadly by a single wire. “It was F***ing frightening. It went on for hours and it just kept coming and coming,” she said. “One of the houses’ bottom bedrooms was taken out at 2pm and there were pillows floating down the road. This was two hours before high tide.”

Cape storm

Micaela Smith watches huge waves on Clarence Drive at Ernst se Bank cliff after the storm on 17 September 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Beach Road above Bikini Beach in Gordon’s Bay was temporarily closed on Sunday, 18 September 2023 after being hit by huge waves the previous day. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

City of Cape Town staff, disaster management teams and law enforcement were on the scene. Una Marais, the manager of a local restaurant, was taking photos of the street from a balcony, as a resident called from her upstairs balcony to City officials, saying she was without power. Maresa Volsteett and husband Jeremy walked by carrying an old, rusted rake and a broom. Maresa rushed towards City officials who were clearing their driveway with spades and brooms, thanking them over and over. “What was I going to do with this,” she says, gesturing to the old rake and broom. She was extremely grateful too for the construction vehicles and people who cleared the road so quickly. 

Tidal pool vanished

In Jongensfontein, access to the beach was closed as a skid steer loader cleared a street. Further away, at the tidal pool, onlookers gathered to take in the damage to the area. A video that had gone viral showed waves crashing over cars in the parking area. Two cars were swept into the sea, but one was recovered. The tidal pool was not even visible as the ocean swells were still high. 

Cape storm

The bottom half of Johan Kok’s home in Herolds Bay was damaged. He said part of a bridge had gone through his bedroom window at 4pm on Saturday, 17 September 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Johan Kok’s shoes drying in the sun after the storm. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

John Wills, from Jongensfontein, which falls under the Hessequa Municipality, described Saturday’s chaos as “like an angry sea”. The waves were still quite high on Sunday and some locals were shocked at how rough the sea was. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Two dead after high winds and wild seas wreak havoc on Eastern and Western Cape coasts

In Herolds Bay, the bottom half of Johan Kok’s home was damaged. Part of a bridge had gone through his bedroom window at 4pm on Saturday. Water washed over his motorbike and his belongings were scattered everywhere. Kok was busy trying to dry his clothes on a neighbour’s roof. 

Cape storm

Beach Road in Gordon’s Bay was strewn with debris on Sunday after Saturday’s massive waves. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Jean Colby was one of the residents who refused to evacuate. Her grandmother bought the property in about 1932 and she has been visiting Herolds Bay since birth. “This is not the first time that this has happened but this is the worst,” she said. “It has happened before, it will happen again. We just have to live with it.” Jean and her husband Norman live on the second floor and didn’t feel that they were in danger. 

The bridge in Herolds Bay was destroyed by the crashing water. Officials closed the beach and would not allow anyone near it on Sunday for fear of the high tide in the afternoon. By Monday the beach was open to residents and clean-up operations started. DM

The bridge was washed away in Herolds Bay. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

A resident walks his dog in Herolds Bay after the storm. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

A few properties were damaged in Herolds Bay. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Jean Colby (75) in her family home. Her grandmother bought the property in about 1932 and she has been visiting Herold’s Bay since birth. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Mop-up operations begin in Herold’s Bay on Monday, 18 September 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Jean Colby watches as a tractor clears a path near her home in Herold’s Bay on Monday, 18 September 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

The waves washed away the bridge in Herolds Bay. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

The Jongensfontein tidal pool where two cars were washed out to sea. The tidal pool was submerged on Sunday, 17 September 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Huge waves rumble towards a damaged home in Jongensfontein on 17 September 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Cape storm

A view of Beach Road above Bikini Beach from the harbour wall in Gordon’s Bay after the storm on 17 September 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Patrick M says:

    Don’t know about you, but this makes me really excited about gradual, market-based solutions to climate change.

    • Derek Jones says:

      Yo agree…
      “dont it always seem to go, you dont know what you got till its gone” joni mitchell…was prophetic, dont hold your breath tho.

    • Cheryl Siewierski says:

      🤣Too right.

    • Ben Harper says:

      What utter nonsense – every one of these locations has seen the same, if not worse damage over the years. Trust a climate alarmist to make something out of nothing

      • Steve Davidson says:

        And trust yet another fossil fuel friendly climate change denialist to pooh pooh it with his pooh.

        • Ben Harper says:

          doesn’t take much to trigger you does it Karen

        • Ben Harper says:

          I’m a Mariner and have sailed the worlds oceans for over 20 years, I know what is normal and what is not and the weather events of the past weekend are normal, it happens every few years. I at least know what I’m talking about

          • jason du toit says:

            you are right about it always having happened. the problem is that now it is likely to happen more frequently. if a once-in-ten-years event starts happening every 8, or 6, or fewer years, then there are major financial and economic implications.

            climate change is most defenitely not the end of the world as we know it (despite what some seem to think), but it does have huge costs associated with it. large-scale changes to existing weather patterns will put a huge strain on existing infrasture (think areas built close to the sea) and areas of speciality (think farmland that is no longer as arable). it is not so easy to respec arable areas, and not cheap to shore up coastal infrastructure.

            climate change is also disproportionately likely to affect poorer regions, as they have fewer resources available to allow them to pivot.

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