The City of Cape Town’s Flooding and Storms Task Team has completed its annual flood risk assessment to mitigate the impact of severe weather episodes during the winter season.

Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security and Social Services, Alderman JP Smith, said flooding was a known hazard in the city, despite the current drought and unpredictable winter rainfall patterns. A number of departments are working to mitigate the impact of such incidents in the coming months.

Historically, Cape Town is known for experiencing cut-off low pressure systems during the winter months, which result in heavy rainfall and flash floods. The risks are increased when such conditions coincide with the spring tide, as was the case in June 2017, resulting in storm damage that included structural collapses, power outages and uprooted trees in various area of the metropole.

To mitigate the impact of severe weather episodes, various City departments participate in the annual winter readiness preparations under the banner of the Flooding and Storms Task Team, chaired by the City’s Disaster Risk Management Centre.

This year, the task team identified the following risks relating to the hazard of flooding:

  • 29 informal settlements, most along the N2 strip and Khayelitsha, which are considered high-risk due to their location. Some of these are in wetlands, ponds and natural water-courses, and will need to be relocated to higher ground.
  • Parts of the N1, N2 and R300 highways have also been identified as flood risks. Roadworks to mitigate these risks are under way.
  • Mountain slopes in the Helderberg, South Peninsula and Table Mountain range that have been stripped of stabilising vegetation by fires are a risk for flooding or mudslides.

Smith commented: “The respective departments are working hard to address the risks, but are also doing general maintenance like cleaning of storm water and river systems, pruning of trees and shrubs and public education and awareness drives on how to safeguard homes, particularly in informal settlements, from flooding and related risks.

“Residents are given practical tips on how to raise floor levels, divert flood waters, and reduce health hazards associated with stagnant water. We also call on private homeowners to assess their risk.”

Tips provided for those with properties in potential risk areas include clearing gutters to remove debris, ensuring roofs and chimneys are waterproofed and trimming tree branches. Chimneys and fireplaces should be cleaned as accumulated debris could pose a fire hazard, and people are advised to ensure all personal and building insurance is up to date.

Smith continued: “We have no clear sense yet of how wet it will be this winter. The Disaster Risk Management Centre is still awaiting a long-range weather forecast from the South African Weather Service. Given our desperate need for rain to counter the crippling drought, we are obviously hoping for above-average rainfall, but that comes with its own challenges.

“We will also engage with the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) to ensure the quickest possible turnaround times in instances where disaster relief is required. SASSA has taken over the co-ordination of disaster relief, which was previously done by the Disaster Risk Management Centre on its behalf and, unfortunately, we have seen a slowdown in service provision to fire victims.”