With forecasts of above average rainfall for winter, the City’s multi-departmental Winter Task Team is already hard at work to plan for the potential impact of severe weather episodes.

The City of Cape Town’s Flooding and Storms Task Team has already started its annual meetings to ensure various departmental plans are in place and at the ready to assist residents in the event of flooding or other weather-related damages during winter.

The work of the task team is coordinated by the City’s Disaster Risk Management Centre. Planning is based on a comprehensive close-out report from the previous winter, and best practices are used to mitigate risk factors.

More than 25 City departments and external partners are on the task team, including the Fire and Rescue Service, Emergency Call Centre, Transport, Solid Waste, Electricity, Human Settlements, the various enforcement services, provincial government, SAPS, the SPCA and the NSRI.

‘It is critical to have as many hands on deck in the planning and execution of these massive public safety exercises. We take a similar approach for our festive season planning, and the integrated approach has proven to be very successful thus far. This year will be no different and the various services are gearing up for what appears to be forecasts of a long winter, with above average rainfall’, said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.

Among the considerations in the City’s consolidated Winter Readiness Plan, are:

Identifying at-risk informal settlements and moving residents to higher ground or implementing flood-mitigation measures
Ongoing education and awareness programmes around flood and fire awareness which includes practical tips on how to raise floor levels, divert flood waters and reduce the health hazards associated with stagnant water
Cleaning critical storm water infrastructure in high flood-risk areas and removing invasive aquatic and terrestrial plants along key river corridors
Proactive pruning/maintenance of trees to minimise the risk of falling branches and debris
Service level agreement with the South African Social Service Agency to provide humanitarian aid to residents in distress and discomfort as a result of flooding and storm damage

The DRMC is currently busy with the assessment and identification of high risk areas such as informal settlements near detention ponds or low-lying areas, which are prone to flooding. The assessment will be completed by the end of this month.

DRMC will continue with awareness and education programmes in communities to inform residents of the risk of flooding and what to do in the event of flooding.

In terms of weather forecasts, the centre receives ongoing updates and alerts from the South African Weather Service. These alerts help guide the City’s efforts in preparation for severe cold fronts, which are often characterised by heavy rainfall and strong winds.

Infrastructure damage often results from high intensity rainfall and gale force winds during short periods of time or during two or three consecutive cold fronts within a 48-hour period.

‘We are all familiar with the weather-related impacts that can come with a Cape Town winter, which is why we invest so much into our planning. Our appeal to the public is to do their bit too. Informal settlements in low-lying areas or land not suitable for habitation is a real risk. Furthermore, residents also have to ensure that their properties are ready for the season, by cleaning gutters, pruning trees and removing obstacles that could lead to flooding or water damage.

‘City departments will be on standby to assist in the event of an emergency. Residents are also reminded to direct any weather-related emergency calls to the City’s Public Emergency Communication Centre by dialling 021 480 7700 from a cellphone or 107 from a landline. The number should be saved on your mobile device, as this will expedite things in the event of an emergency,’ added Alderman Smith.

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