OPINION

After the deluge

David Bullard |

21 June 2022

David Bullard on cleaning up after the flood the weather gods dropped upon his home

OUT TO LUNCH

Weather forecasts are generally about as believable as the ANC’s promises of job creation and a crackdown on corrupt cadres. I’m sure the meteorologists don’t do it out of malice but while popular online weather forecaster ‘YR’ promises a deluge, for example, others are less optimistic….and vice versa. The forecasts also change by the hour and the promise of 30mm of much needed rain reduces to a dribble of 5mm or gets pushed out for a couple of days.

However, I did keep a wary eye on YR’s forecasts for early last week and they didn’t disappoint. The forecasts varied for Monday, with an initial prediction of over 90mm of rain revised to around 60mm if memory serves. Then the forecast for Tuesday was for even more rain.

The final score, as measured in various rain gauges for those two days in my neck of the woods was between 180mm and 210mm (we measured 180mm but we emptied the rain gauge when it was already overflowing at 100mm so we probably undercounted).

The grim proof that there had been ‘a helluva lot of precipitation’ came when, at 9.30pm last Tuesday as I was sitting watching the final episode of the latest series of Borgen on Netflix (strongly recommended) in front of a roaring log fire, water suddenly started pouring through the light fittings in the ceiling.

Not even an ominous ‘drip drip drip’ but a torrential downpour which required many buckets and old towels. Furniture was quickly dragged out of the way or covered with plastic sheeting and mopping up operations swung into action immediately.  

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I’ve often wondered which of fire or water is the worst household risk and I’ve decided that it’s definitely water. Fire risk has a rather more definite outcome but the water flooding often requires days of drying out and, as I am finding out, insurance companies will wriggle out of claims by saying that inadequate roof maintenance was the cause. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

I have had that flat roof water-proofed three times over the past eight years and all gutters were cleaned ahead of the winter rains, but I have a feeling that I am going to be left high and not so dry after the latest flooding and the argument that it was a freak weather condition will hold no water with the insurance assessor.

Needless to say, the rain continued through Tuesday night depriving me of any sleep, sending me to the comfort of the whisky decanter and forcing me to nervously move through the rest of the house looking for tiny trails of water coming down the walls.

Fortunately, the only part of the house which was very badly affected was the part of the living room under a flat roof. It seems that the guttering couldn’t cope with the sheer volume of water dropped first by a hailstorm and then, a few minutes later, by a deafening cloud burst seemingly aimed at me. Fortunately, we have had drier days since then and the rain last Friday didn’t do too much damage but the ceiling now looks like the stained bedsheet of an adolescent boy.

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Checking the news the next day I realised that we had got off relatively lightly. Other homes in the Western Cape had been completely flooded and not just in the informal settlements.

The underground parking area in a nearby upmarket shopping centre was badly flooded with water coming half way up the escalator from the shopping mall to the parking area. Major roads were destroyed and much of the water had no escape route because the storm drains were blocked with rubbish.

The dreadful irony is that this deluge came days after at least five homes burnt down in Somerset West after our freak June wildfires.

Blocked storm drains was a common problem when I lived in Johannesburg. Because the well-designed mine-stone gutters in the road were quite deep and the storm drains fairly large in many of the older northern suburbs it seemed logical to municipal workers post 1994 that rubbish, instead of being swept and collected, should be crammed into storm drains. That naturally lead to flooding which lead to potholes which lead to more job creation.