Western Cape - Flood Warning


National Disaster Management made a recommendation to Parliament yesterday that the Western Cape should brace itself for severe flooding from May onwards.

The City of Cape Town's Disaster Risk Management Centre, the South African Weather Service (SAWS), and the National Disaster Management Centre have all worked closely to mitigate against any potentially hazardous situations. The City would like to assure residents and visitors that it is fully informed and prepared for potential risks.

The City’s Disaster Risk Management Centre will implement its Winter Flooding Plan as per usual this year and is preparing for possible floods. This plan is informed by early warnings and developed in close consultation with the SAWS. The information that the City has received from the SAWS suggests that the weather patterns this year will be similar to those of last year, and no above-average rainfall will occur.

The SAWS has advised that the current above-average rainfall in the summer rainfall regions of South Africa is mainly due to the La Nina (flooding) conditions in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. La Nina is the opposite of the well-known El Nino phenomenon (drought conditions) and usually results in above normal rainfall patterns over the central and eastern parts of southern Africa, north-eastern Australia, and other parts of the world. There is no clear link between La Nina and the winter rainfall in the south-western Cape.

The latest seasonal forecasts indicate that the current above-average rainfall conditions over the summer rainfall regions in South Africa will continue until at least April this year. At this early stage, the current seasonal forecasts for the early winter period are not yet consistent enough to provide a confident outlook for the winter rainfall region. However, there are no clear indications that above-average rainfall can be expected.

The SAWS regularly updates its seasonal forecasts, based on its own and other reputable centres. Towards autumn, the confidence in the seasonal forecasts for the winter period will increase as the lead-time decreases.

The City’s Winter Flooding Plan proved successful last year and there are important lessons which have informed this year’s plan. The plan comprises a two-prong approach, namely the reduction of risks by preventative measures, and the provision of support in the event of a crisis.

The City raises awareness about the risk of winter flooding and advises the community how best to prepare, mitigate and respond to flood situations on an ongoing basis.

The City’s Festive Season Plan is currently in place and informs its strategies for dealing with any disasters during the summer season, such as fires. This plan will conclude after Easter, at which point the City’s Winter Flooding Plan will be put in place.

The Winter Flooding Plan Task Team started working on the plan for 2011 at the end of last year and the integrated site inspection programme is due to begin next month.

The Winter Flooding Plan last year saw the City complete approximately 94% of its intervention programmes during the winter period. Statistics show that there was a more than 70% reduction in affected structures during winter last year and that the number of affected communities has been turned around. The year 2008 saw 22 323 affected structures and 75 258 affected people; 2009 saw 11 507 affected structures and 28 011 affected people; but last year saw just 3 497 affected structures and 9 099 affected people.

The Western Cape is one of the first provinces in South Africa to be part of the National Flash Flood Guidance System, with a partnership between the City of Cape Town, National Disaster Management Centre and the SAWS. The system is fully operational in Cape Town and residents will be warned in advance of any expected imminent severe weather conditions or flooding. The City’s Disaster Risk Management Centre will issue the necessary public safety advisories informing the public of measures to be taken.

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