More freak conditions to come? Are you prepared?

The tornado that passed through Krugersdorp and surrounds. Photo credit: Zwartkrans Community Forum/ Krugersdorp News

With much of October and November still ahead of us – traditionally the months that account for the most severe weather events and highest financial losses – there is a need for extra precautions.

According to Mandy Barrett of insurance brokerage and risk advisors, Aon South Africa, the severity of the flooding and damage we are seeing is alarming, and while there is little that you can do to prevent a flood, there are some important tips that can help protect your personal safety and assets in such freak weather conditions.

She said the havoc wrought across the country over the last few years highlights just how vulnerable we are to the changing weather patterns and climate change.

Many areas in Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal came to a standstill on Monday and Tuesday as devastating hailstorms, torrential rain and strong winds tore off roofs, flooded roads, smashed windows and cars, uprooted trees and walls, and tragically claimed several lives.

“The downpours happened in a matter of minutes with incredible intensity, with some areas reporting golf-ball size hailstones, proving that extreme weather catastrophes happen with very little warning, and there is just no telling how severe they will be.

“General consensus from meteorologists is that climate change is having a massive impact on property losses, and South Africa should brace for a new normal of abnormally heavy rain and hail storms, powerful winds and drought conditions in many regions.”

Aon provides the following advice:

On the road:

• Take special note of weather warnings and if possible, avoid being on the road or out and about during such times.

• If you can, rather avoid driving in heavy downpours. Treacherous potholes could be hiding in the guise of a puddle. Never attempt to drive through a flooded area of the road – even a few centimetres of water is powerful enough to sweep a car away.

• If caught in a flash flood on the road, get yourself to safety as quickly as possible – if you can, get out of the vehicle and get to high ground. Don’t close all the windows as the water will cause a vacuum and trap you in the car.

• Many car accident claims are due to slippery roads and potholes. Tyre damage is not an uncommon occurrence, and is normally not covered by a motor insurance policy unless another part of the vehicle is damaged at the same time.

• Check your tyre tread and replace worn tyres – an accident claim could potentially be repudiated if the tread is deemed insufficient to have stopped the vehicle in time. The legally required minimum tread depth is 1,6mm.

• Increase your following distance and reduce your speed to allow enough time to react.

• Watch out for potholes as they are filled with water in rainy conditions. Heavy rainfalls can also cause potholes to appear where there weren’t any previously.

• Watch for motorists swerving to avoid objects in the road and be prepared to do the same.

• Many traffic lights are out of order during heavy rain, so drive carefully.

• Roads are congested and tempers frayed, so keep your cool.

Tips for home:

• Your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover any damage to the structure of the building as a direct result of freak rainstorms, but will not cover maintenance-related damage. This means that while your insurance will respond by repairing the damage caused by a leaking roof, it will not cover the repair of the roof’s waterproofing if it deteriorated due to lack of maintenance.

• If you’re faced with flooding of your property, try to move as many of your belongings as you can out of the water – the longer the water is left standing, the more damage it causes. Try to clear away as much of the water as you possibly can to prevent further and permanent damage.

• Half a metre of paving around the perimeter of a building can help with damp problems.

• Keep gutters clear of debris to facilitate proper drainage around the house. Protect inlet/ outlet pipes of any drains and storm water drainage against blockage by debris.

• Check the waterproofing and flashings on the roof on a regular basis.

• Install lightning rods along the outside of the house if your area is prone to lightning strikes, and fit plugs with surge protection.

“If you are unfortunate and do suffer a loss, report your claim as soon as possible – bear in mind that claim volumes after such catastrophic events will be high and there may be delays in getting assessments and repairs done, and shortages of hire cars. There is also the annual shutdown to consider in December which may see your damages only repaired in the New Year should you suffer a loss closer to the holiday period,” said Mandy.

“Discuss your motor and household insurance with your broker to make sure you are comprehensively covered for such eventualities. The growing risks presented by our changing weather patterns demand that you review your needs in detail and get impartial and professional advice to ensure your cover meets those needs. Choice, simplicity of wording and customisation will ensure that your assets are covered correctly,” Mandy concluded.

The question now is, what is the weather forecast for Randfontein for the rest of the week (from Wednesday until next week Tuesday)? According to the South African Weather Service, we can expect absolutely no rainfall whatsoever with temperatures reaching a high of 28 (Saturday and Sunday) and a low of 5 (Thursday only).

Do you perhaps have more information pertaining to this story? Email us at [email protected]  (please remember to include your contact details in the email) or phone us on 011 693 3671.

For free daily local news on the West Rand, also visit our sister newspaper websites

Roodepoort Record

Krugersdorp News 

Get It Joburg West Magazine

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Clinton Botha

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