The South African Weather Services confirmed with temperatures dropping below freezing a rare snow storm is blanketing Vereeniging, Pretoria and Johannesburg today, and they predict the snow to last possibly until early Wednesday.
"It's difficult to gauge how much snow has fallen as we don't really measure snowfall in South Africa, but it's more than we have had since 2008," Venetia Phakula, forecaster at the South African Weather Service, told the Mail & Guardian.
Not since 2007 and only 22 times in the last 103 years have snowflakes graced Johannesburg, South Africa. This would be like snow falling in San Francisco or Los Angeles in California. Actually snow did blanket the Bay Area on February 5, 1976. Living in Fremont at the time, I took my two children to the base of Mission Peak to build a snowman and play in the snow. It was an event we will never forget!
In Johannesburg people emptied buildings and took to the outdoors to enjoy the phenomenon while capturing the moment on mobile phone cameras and looking to the sky in amazement, according to AP reports.
This is a rare Tuesday morning occurrence for South Africans as they celebrated winter on the subcontinent in a special way. The high mountains of the Cape are usually the only places graced with snow fall.
South African winters last from May to August and the high areas of the interior plateau are dry and sunny with crisp days and colds night, but generally no snow. In fact winters can even be hot and humid on the KwaZulu-Natal coast as well as the lower elevations of Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces. This Mediterranean climate is similar to the lower elevations in California that is likewise known for moderate climate year around.
As the day progressed snow continued to cover roof tops and roads no doubt causing hazards for drivers not used to driving in snow conditions. Some national roads were closed on Tuesday as a result of the snow, including the N3 at Van Reenen's Pass between Harrismith and the Tugela toll plaza, as well as passes in the Eastern Cape, with the authorities urging motorists to drive with care.
While South Africa is considered a subtropical region with ocean on three sides of the country including an interior plateau, the warm conditions are a magnate for tourists because of its continuous sunshine similar to California. The rainfall is quite low, so this snow storm is indeed a memorable event for South Africans.
Tweeters took the opportunity to post some humorous twitter observations:
@ComradeAMU: Due to the snowfall in joburg, the ANC has declared a state of emergency. The country is turning white again.
@RianVanHeerden: Snowing ... Or as ANC Youth League calls it "the attack of the miniature whites ... "
@lesterkk: The DA in Cape Town must be investigated for their lack of delivery of snow! This would never happen in Europe!
@themba_m: I am so excited. It is really snowing in Sandton, this is massive. The President must issue a congratulatory message.