Here’s some background and startling visuals on the major weather events in Southern Africa over the last few decades – from Domoina, to drought, to a touch of Dineo.
At the end of 1983, the Pongolapoort Dam (fondly known as Jozini Dam) was at 13% of its capacity and generally thought of as a bit of a “white elephant” and the Pongola River ambled through the countryside in a bare trickle during this very dry period. And then, in January 1984, Tropical Cyclone Domoina struck in Southern Mozambique and crossed westwards into Swaziland.
The heavy rainfall saw some of the rivers in Swaziland rise 30 m (98 ft) in a few hours! The floods washed out or damaged over 100 bridges, and two railway lines were cut. The floods closed at least 20 major roads and the country’s primary airport and most schools nationwide.
Thousands of livestock died during the storm and thousands of acres of croplands were flooded – with the crop damage estimated at US$2.5million. 10,000 citrus trees were destroyed and about 500 people were left homeless after many homes were damaged or destroyed. The storm’s high winds knocked down trees and power lines, with resultant power outages, with the overall damage estimated at US$54 million – and sadly, 73 people were killed. Thankfully, Pongolapoort Dam could contain this downpour and filled to 87% in a matter of days, saving the Makatini Flats and Maputo from even worse flooding than they already experienced. Mpumalanga and Kwa Zulu were hit hard and declared disaster zones, with even more people dead and the land devastated.
Fast forward to 2015 and 2016 and along with South Africa, Swaziland was in the grip of a terrible drought. It is estimated that in Swaziland, 40,000 head of cattle died from starvation in 2016 alone as the grasslands withered and baked to a crisp – and with little rain, the veld could not recover. For subsistence farmers whose cattle is sometimes their only wealth, this was a devastating blow. In two years, the Pongolapoort Dam, which can hold a total of 2267 million cubic meters of water, shrank from being virtually full, to about 36 %. South Africa’s dams throughout the country were shrinking and in some cases dry, water restrictions became part of life and millions of people prayed and watched anxiously – not wanting another Domoina but certainly wishing for a significant “weather system” to bring relief and to help fill the dams again.
In February 2017, the whole of the Eastern part of Southern Africa went on to high alert with the formation of Cyclone Dineo, which devastated areas of Mozambique in the Inhambane area, only to travel south and then westwards and quickly dissipate to a tropical storm. 70mm over three days was measured in southern Swaziland, which just got the weakest, southernmost touch of the storm as it passed over. Quite a difference to the 700mm which fell in one day with Domoina!
But whilst dam levels at the end of the storm remained much the same (37.9% at 20 Feb 2017 – current levels on this link), days of soaking rain meant that the bush grew thick, the grass long and there was plenty to eat for the wild game at Royal Jozini and the cattle of the local farmers.
Why not come to check out this lush bushveld and the state of the lake for yourself? Contact us for a bush break in this very special little part of Africa.
Acknowledgements: Photographs: John van Niekerk, Debra-Lee Photography, Bob Forrester Swazi Digital Archives, Wikipedia