The wackiest weather from 2017

2017-12-15 19:00 - Gabi Zietsman
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Cape Town - Mother Nature really meant business this year as natural disasters plagued the world in 2017.

The Caribbean hurricane season brought us the strongest one in recorded history, devastating whole islands and coastlines. Massive fires have plagued places like Spain, California in the US, and even South Africa had one of the most destructive fires in recent history.

SEE: CoP23: Climatic extremes SA's biggest climate change concern

Storms are getting bigger and bigger, while seasonal weather seems to have been thrown out of wack, with a long drought bringing the western parts of the country almost no rain and a massive water crisis, especially in Cape Town.

We even got snow in November, prompting many 'White Christmas' jokes for the country.

If these natural disasters don't tell you that climate change is real, then you're probably part of the Flat Earthers movement.

Hurricane Season

Safe to say that 2017 was The Year of the Hurricane, with Hurricane Irma in the lead. According to grist's meteorologists, this was the strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history, a storm that no one in its path had experienced before, and may have changed some islands forever.

Its wind speeds reached up to 300km/h at its maximum power, and destroyed small Caribbean islands like St Martin, St Barts, St Thomas, Barbuda and Anguilla, as well as knocked the Virgin Islands, Cuba and the coastline of Florida in the US.

The islands that just missed Irma's destruction, was battered later that month by Hurricane Maria that left Puerto Rico and Dominica in turmoil without communication, as well as the island of St Croix. Even Europe got Hurricane Ophelia on its doorstep as it cancelled flights across Ireland and the UK, and its winds spanned the raging fire that engulfed Spain.

SEE: Post-hurricane rampage: Caribbean islands you can visit

The big Durban storm

Although it didn't reach hurricane-levels, the big Durban storm wreaked chaos in the city, where residents were wholly unprepared for the severity of the storm. Buildings collapsed, people were trapped in cars and heavy rain flooded the city, closing the ports and causing flight delays. 

KZN Premier Willies Mchunu declared KwaZulu-Natal a disaster area, and acknowledged the role that climate change played in creating such a massive storm.

Schools were some of the hardest hit, amounting to R136,5 million worth of damage done to schools alone.

The after-effects of the storm were felt many weeks later, leaving a stink behind at the Durban Port and a rise in snake activity in the city that left many reptiles washed up in odd places.

A container also spilled nurdles that infested most of KZN's beaches, posing a serious threat to marine animals and people indirectly. A massive cleanup operation was initiated by the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR), and hundreds of South Africans have nurdled their way up and down the coast.

SEE: 'Global warming effects are realities' - KZN Premier points to climate change as cause of storm

Wildfires in Knysna and other parts of the world

In June our beautiful Garden Route was ravaged by a raging fire the spiraled out of control and engulfed the towns of Sedgefield, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, closing multiple roads. The fire claimed seven lives, fanned by strong winds and water shortage, displaced thousands of people from their homes and inflicted R4 billion worth of damage

SANparks stated that while arson has not been ruled out, "scientists have suggested spontaneous combustion could be the cause behind the 300-km fire line". Harkerville was the most affected in the Garden Route National Park, but lots of progress has been made to rehabilitate its routes and picnic spots.

There were other two major fire disasters this year in the rest of the world. California's wine country was set ablaze with lives and homes lost, and in Spain 15 separate wildfires ignited in the country, posed a risk to built up areas in the region of Galicia, where the flames were fanned by wind gusts of up to 90km/h from Hurricane Ophelia.

SEE: #KnysnaRises: Garden Route showcases the digital future of disaster response management

Months-long rumbling of Bali volcano

Mount Agung has been rumbling since September, with the evacuation of over a hundred thousand people since, but only recently has it reached a point of closing down airports without actually erupting. The volcano's last eruption in the 60s killed over a thousand people, and although it has spewed dark gray ash it hasn't popped it's lava top yet.

The airport opened again on 29 November, but the danger has not passed yet as the exclusion zone is still in effect. Lombok's airport was  still closed on 30 November.

Tourists heading for Bali soon are urged to check on their travel insurance and to monitor the volcano's activity. 

UPDATE: Flights set to resume as Bali's airport re-opens, what SA travellers need to know

Drought-hit South Africa

As the drought in the northern provinces finally eased up, it moved to the western provinces, halting rainfall during the usual wet winter. The City of Cape Town has been the hardest hit, and is expected to run out of water by May 2018 if water consumption does not decrease. 

It is especially worrying as the Mother City soon heads into tourist season, with a reported 2 million tourists to descend on the drought-stricken city. 

At this stage there are seven projects already underway in the first phase of a mitigation plan. These are Monwabisi, Strandfontein, the V&A Waterfront, and Cape Town Harbour desalination plants; the Atlantis and Cape Flats Aquifer projects and the Zandvliet water recycling project that will be producing an additional 144 million litres per day between February and July, with the yield from these projects rising incrementally in the months thereafter. 

SEE: Cape Water Crisis: New initiative to help tourism sector reduce usage

November Snow

We all know that we shouldn't be getting snow in November, but Mother Nature didn't seem to get the memo. On 16 November four provinces, including Lesotho, experienced freak heavy snowfall, blanketing mountains, towns and even resulted in the closing of SA's border with Lesotho at Qasha's Nek Port because of the extreme weather.

According to the SA Weather Service, this was the result of a steep upper-air trough that resulted in significantly cooler weather over most parts of the country.

It didn't end there, with more snow on the 24th falling in Lesotho which gave runners on the Lesotho Ultra Trail a breezier experience than usual.

PICS: Travellers across SA and Lesotho capture rare snow in November

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