South Africans urged to prepare as the summer rains finally arrive

11 October 2019 MiWay

South Africans are battening down the hatches as hail, thunder and strong winds herald the arrival of the first summer rains and storms.

With the South African Weather Bureau warning of heavy rains, thunderstorms and hailstorms across the eastern part of the country, South Africans are crossing their fingers that they will not see a repeat of 2017 - when storms raged across Gauteng leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

While Limpopo and Mpumalanga reported heavy rains and hail yesterday (Thursday), the rain and hail largely passed Gauteng. This is however unlikely to last and all residents living in summer rainfall regions need to prepare themselves for the coming storms, warns MiWay Insurance.

The insurer says that while the rain is welcome, considering the drought conditions persisting across many parts of the country, South Africans need to take the necessary precautions to ensure that they are not inconvenienced by the looming risk of extensive damage.

MiWay says that while the safest option is to stay indoors in extreme weather, you should take the following precautions should you find yourself caught in hailstorms or downpours while on the road:

• In extremely heavy rain, do not allow your car to mist up. Switch your demisters on to clear up your windscreen for visibility.

• Keep your headlights and even your hazard lights on, for better visibility.

• Increase the driving distance between you and other motorists for added safety and be more vigilant about pedestrians and other road users.

• Don’t slam on your brakes - stop gradually by taking your foot off the accelerator to avoid skidding.

• Only move forward if you can clearly see what is ahead of you, and do not drive through deep waters or attempt to cross a stretch of water. Even in relatively shallow water, tyres can act as flotation devices - lifting even big vehicles and sending them downstream. It can take just 60cm of moving water to move a vehicle and carry it away. You should also never attempt to walk or drive across a flooded or fast-moving river.

• If you are caught in a hailstorm, stay calm and look for cover such as a covered car park, a petrol station or a bridge. Do not park under trees as there is a danger of falling branches and debris. If there is no shelter close by, pull over onto the side of the road if it is safe to do so. Hail causes more damage to moving vehicles than stationary ones.

• If you are caught on a flooded road, try and get to higher ground as soon as possible.

If you find yourself in a flash flood:

• Try to stay calm - do not panic! You and your passengers need to focus on one goal only and that is to exit the car as quickly as possible.

• Get out! If you cannot open the doors because of the water pressure against them, roll down your windows. If your electronic windows fail to open, use the metal part of your removable head rests to break the windows – or any other steel-tipped tool. Alternatively, try kicking out the windscreen.

• If your windows will not open, and you have exhausted all alternatives, let the car fill with water and then attempt to open a door. Once the internal pressure is equal to the pressure of the water from outside, you will be able to open the door more easily. Experts recommend choosing a door on the side away from the water flow. Get out of the car immediately, hold your breath, swim to the surface and get to higher ground as soon as you can. Do not stay in the car until it sinks.

• If you are swept into fast moving floodwater outside of your car, point your feet downstream to reduce your risk of hitting your head on an obstacle.

“We welcome the rain, especially in light of the lower-than-desirable dam levels across the country, but we urge those South Africans who live in the summer rainfall regions to take the necessary precautions to ensure that they reap the fruit rather than the destruction of the rain. Residents can do so by ensuring they are aware of how to drive in severe thunder or hailstorms and what to do if they are caught in a flash flood. Homeowners and business owners should also do what is required to protect their property”, says Nthabiseng Moloi, Head of Marketing and Brand.

As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. South Africans who live in the eastern parts of the country know what the summer rains can do and should take all preventative measures to ensure they do not incur a loss as a result of rain or storms.

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