subscribe Support our award-winning journalism. The Premium package (digital only) is R30 for the first month and thereafter you pay R129 p/m now ad-free for all subscribers.
Subscribe now
Unstoppable: Parts of the road between Bot River and Caledon washed away. Picture: Reuters/Esa Alexander
Unstoppable: Parts of the road between Bot River and Caledon washed away. Picture: Reuters/Esa Alexander

The term cutoff low is a new buzzword for South Africans. Just as the expressions load-shedding, state capture and junk status have become regular if unwelcome parts of the daily discourse in the Lucky Country, so too will cutoff low, if the weather doesn’t improve.

“Cutoff low” describes the low-pressure cell that brought a deluge to the Western Cape on Sunday. A correspondent who lives in the Bot River valley writes that they had 170mm of rain in 36 hours.

That’s a biblical amount of water, enough to make one start chopping trees and hammering together an ark. 

It was enough rain to make even the most parochial Capetonians take notice, especially if they, as many did, found themselves cut off from other places.

The tally of closed roads reads like a monthly grocery list

Burbling mountain brooks have become angry torrents. Vineyards and farms have been trashed. Cars have been swept away with people inside them. Bridges, including the one carrying the N2 over the Bot, have been destroyed. Clarence Drive — the famous coastal road between Gordon’s Bay and Kleinmond — and Chapman’s Peak are closed.

A video of the Cape main line at De Doorns shows a river using the railway as a watercourse and, acting like a scrap thief, vandalising the infrastructure as it goes.

By Monday morning, the tally of closed roads read like a monthly grocery list. It was little better on Tuesday. The critical N2 between Cape Town and Elsewhere was closed, and may stay shut for some time. If you want to get to Elsewhere from here, well, the Karoo is looking forward to hosting you.

One glimmer of light is, in fact, an oncoming train, for the rail bridges on the line from Caledon to Cape Town have apparently survived the downpour — which means the malt trains can get to the brewery. 

Which, in turn, means beer.

A washed away road between Bot River and Caledon after heavy rains in the Western Cape, September 25, 2023. Picture: REUTERS/Esa Alexander
A washed away road between Bot River and Caledon after heavy rains in the Western Cape, September 25, 2023. Picture: REUTERS/Esa Alexander
subscribe Support our award-winning journalism. The Premium package (digital only) is R30 for the first month and thereafter you pay R129 p/m now ad-free for all subscribers.
Subscribe now

Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.