The first I heard about Tropical Storm Eloise was a warning issued on our Estate’s WhatsApp group, which I glanced at and then carried on with what I was doing. It definitely registered, but no alarm bells. Yet. When I started getting messages and weather reports from family members, who were a little concerned, I thought I should probably give it more than a peripheral glance.
This is what Reuters had to say about it on 22 January 2021:
“JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – A powerful storm nearing Mozambique is expected to intensify into a tropical cyclone on Friday, according to forecasts, dumping rain onto already swollen rivers in an area devastated by Cyclone Idai less than two years ago.
Tropical Storm Eloise, currently over the Mozambique channel whose warm Indian Ocean waters fuel its strength, could develop into a category 3 tropical cyclone, Mozambique’s National Meteorological Institute (INAM) said.”
In South Africa, it was expected to affect Kwazulu Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces the worst, although a lot of rain was expected over most of the country.
A very level-headed lady who resides on our Estate, and for who I have the utmost respect, sent out some information on the WhatsApp group as to who to contact and how people could be rescued – including air rescues, if worst case scenario struck.
Right, now I was really paying attention! I had planned to drive back to Johannesburg on Sunday morning, but with a potential cyclone on the rampage with all its ramifications, this no longer seemed like a good plan! Many people were convinced that by the time it hit South Africa it would be a storm in a teacup or certainly not a full-blown cyclone, but I definitely live by the motto: Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
I broke the news to the family that my return would be delayed and got some tears from Zaza which broke my heart. I also wanted to get back to them. Freedom in the Bush with a choice of return date was one thing but being trapped until Eloise was finished with her temper tantrum, was quite another.
The Bush is always in dire need of rain. Our rivers on Moditlo have not flowed in many years and it would be a welcome sight to see them flow. I bought some provisions, making sure I had enough water and food for a couple of days, checked my back up lights, charged the inverter and generally prepared to make sure that I had what I needed to survive the storm. Chocolate was, of course, at the very top of the list.
I was very pleased with myself that I had covered all the bases, and it was, of course, at that point whilst I was still mentally patting myself on the back, that I ran out of gas in the kitchen. Since I couldn’t single-handedly relocate a full 9kg gas bottle, I resigned myself to the fact that if the electricity went off – a very likely scenario, that it was cold food and no coffee for me! Oh well, at least I had chocolate.
And then…… Eloise
The first thing that happened was blustering wind. The wind literally howled so much that I thought the train (which passes by several times a day) was coming – possibly to my living room. A couple of times I even checked through the glass front door, as it sounded like somebody was driving up the driveway. The skies were broody and grey. Even the plains game retreated to safer ground. I had never seen so many impala huddled together in one area before.
The rain started and there were some short, heavy bursts but after that it calmed down into more of a steady drizzle. Not quite what I had expected. There was very heavy rain overnight, but no more so than we have had at times before. It was somewhat of an anticlimax to be honest.
Over the next couple of days, there was rain on and off and the Estate looked absolutely lush. The grass was almost a fluorescent green. You had to be careful driving around of course because you never knew when the next storm would hit.
I went out the next evening for a game drive and was filming clouds (one of my favourite and I’ll admit, probably slightly strange obsessions) surrounded by somewhat soggy animals, when the rain suddenly hit hard. I had anticipated that this might happen, so I was within 2 minutes of the Lodge. Within that time, the sheets of rain descending on the already waterlogged ground formed puddles, pools and the occasional river. I was relieved when I saw the welcoming light from the Lodge.
I am very grateful that no irreparable harm was done to the Lodge – except for a bit of a leaky roof, or to our Estate – although watching our rivers flow would have been immensely gratifying. Having said that though, there were areas that were hit hard, and my thoughts go out to the people and families who were severely affected. The death toll stood at 13 on 25 January 2021, so we can really be grateful. The weather can really wreak havoc at times.
What I also realised (after donning a black plastic rubbish bag as a raincoat to retrieve some old buckets) was that a proper dedicated disaster “box” is needed and in a blog somewhere in the near future, I will let you know what I think is needed and why.