The City of Cape Town’s Flooding and Storms Task Team has completed its annual flood risk assessment to mitigate the impact of severe weather episodes during the winter season.
Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security and Social Services, Alderman Smith, said flooding is a known hazard in the city despite the current drought and unpredictable winter rainfall patterns.
“Historically, Cape Town is known for experiencing cut-off low pressure systems during the winter months that result in heavy rainfall and flash floods. The risks are increased when such conditions coincide with the spring tide, as was the case in June 2017, resulting in storm damage including structural collapses, power outages and uprooted trees in various areas of the metropole.
“To mitigate the impact of severe weather episodes, a number of city departments participate in the annual winter readiness preparations under the banner of the Flooding and Storms Task Team, chaired by the city’s Disaster Risk Management Centre,” Smith said.
This year the task team has identified risks relating to the hazard of flooding at 29 informal settlements, mostly situated along the N2 strip and Khayelitsha.
Smith said some of the informal settlements are situated in wetlands, ponds and natural watercourses and will need to be relocated to higher ground.
Parts of the N1, N2 and R300 freeways have also been identified as flood risks and roadworks to mitigate these risks are underway.
Mountain slopes in the Helderberg, South Peninsula and Table Mountain range that have been stripped of stabilising vegetation by fires are also a risk for flooding or mudslides.
“The respective departments are working hard to address the risks, but are also doing general maintenance like cleaning of storm water and river systems, pruning of trees and shrubs and public education and awareness drives on how to safeguard homes, particularly in informal settlements, from flooding and related risks.
“Residents are given practical tips on how to raise floor levels, divert flood waters, and reduce health hazards associated with stagnant water.”
Smith said the city also calls on private homeowners to assess their risk. “For example, if they live close to mountainous areas it is probably wise to consider sandbags in the event of flooding or mudslides; and to ensure that their properties are maintained to reduce weather-related risks,” he said.
Some tips for private homeowners include clearing gutters of debris like leaves, ensuring that roofs and chimneys are waterproofed, trimming tree branches that could potentially fall and cause damage or injury, having chimneys and fireplaces cleaned as accumulated debris could pose a fire hazard, and ensuring that personal and building insurance is up to date.
In case of emergency, the public is urged to call the city’s public emergency communication centre on 021 480 7700 from a cellphone or 107 from a landline.
The city has no clear sense yet of how wet it will be this winter and the Disaster Risk Management Centre is still awaiting a long-range weather forecast from the South African Weather Service.
“Given our desperate need for rain to counter the crippling drought, we are obviously hoping for above average rainfall, but that comes with its own challenges. It is therefore imperative that everyone does their bit to ensure that we are ready for winter.”