Heat sparks hazard-level alerts

[caption id="attachment_108840" align="alignright" width="300"] SPLASH TIME: Cooling off at St George’s Park swimming pool are Kayla Lategan, 18, and Laeeq Pearce, 23 Picture: MIKE HOLMES[/caption]

BERG winds and scorching heat pushed the mercury to dangerous levels in parts of the Garden Route and Nelson Mandela Bay yesterday, with the weather bureau warning of discomfort levels nearing the level of being “hazardous to health”.

Plettenberg Bay experienced a maximum of 36.5°C in the early afternoon, with slightly cooler temperatures to the southwest. A temperature of 35.6°C was recorded in George and 34.4°C in Mossel Bay.

The heatwave in the Bay region peaked at about 2pm, with a blistering 40°C recorded at Coega, 38.4°C in Uitenhage, and 37.5°C at the Port Elizabeth Airport.

The combination of high temperatures and humidity prompted the SA Weather Service to issue warnings of high discomfort levels, measured at a level of 107 – “extremely uncomfortable” – on its index.

Weather service spokesman Garth Sampson said the levels had been approaching a stage of being hazardous to health, which may have been reached in some parts of the Bay and the Garden Route.

“When temperatures and humidity are high at the same time, people’s ability to cool their bodies through sweating is reduced,” Sampson said.

“This can be a real threat.”

He advised people to wear appropriate clothing and drink lots of liquids, excluding alcohol.

Sampson said the service had released about 10 separate weather advisories and warnings.

“It is important that people know that these temperatures and discomfort levels can be fatal to people in some cases.

“The elderly and disabled people are perhaps most at risk.”

Sampson said schools had been advised earlier in the day to cancel all sports and any strenuous outdoor activity.

“At 12.30pm, most of Port Elizabeth had a discomfort level of around 105 – extremely uncomfortable,” he said.

“The only exception was Shark Rock Pier [Hobie Beach], which was considerably cooler thanks to a slight, cool sea breeze.

“The temperature there was a cool – in comparison to the rest of the Bay – 20°C.”

Temperatures in other areas included 39.1°C at Addo, while Fort Beaufort had 36.6°C and Grahamstown 33.6°C.

East London recorded 29.6°C and Mthatha 33.8°C.

Joubertina, Graaff-Reinet, Queenstown, Cradock and Willowmore all recorded temperatures in the low to mid-30s.

Sampson said temperatures throughout the region were expected to be cooler today at about 25°C.

“The cooler conditions going forward will be accompanied by rain showers which are expected to fall on Friday and Saturday evenings,” he said.

“This will have the effect of generally cooling conditions across the Garden Route and along the Eastern Cape coastline.”

- Shaun Gillham