03 August 2006


The recent heat wave in the U.S. has prompted some of you to ask me how hot it is here.

Basic Geography Reminder: South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere. The seasons are reversed from those in the Northern Hemisphere (where the U.S. is located).

It is winter here!

And boy howdy, is it ever. Yesterday as I drove to work, it was 2.5C (around 36F), and I don’t think it warmed up much above 8C (46). There were rumors in the morning of snow in nearby suburbs Krugersdorp, Sandton and Honeydew, but I never saw anything myself.

I made sure to be home in time for the 7.00 p.m. news so I could see how the rest of the country fared. The southern and Eastern Cape areas are having flooding rainstorms. Roads and bridges are washing out, flights delayed, some people dead. The central Free State had snow. Bloemfontein had about 5 inches! (I was in Bloemfontein last week, and it was -9C when the plane landed that morning!) Interior Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal provinces also had snow. The border to Lesotho (a mountainous country that is surrounded by South Africa) was closed because the road was impassable.

The high today will be only 10C (50F). As I’ve mentioned to some of you before, this may not seem all that cold, but keep in mind that most buildings – homes and offices alike – don’t have central heating. Our offices have individual units in each office, but the hallways, break room and bathrooms are icy. At my house, I bought a small space heater for the bedroom and another for the lounge. I have an electric mattress pad on my bed, plus a nice, fat down comforter. Sleeping is fine. It’s getting out of bed in the morning that’s a mission!

When I was here last winter (July and August), it was pretty mild. Daytime temps were in the mid teens (14-18C = 57-64F), sometimes warmer. “This is winter?” I thought. “I can live with this!” So, when I was packing things up in Birmingham, I had trouble deciding if I should bother bringing any wool sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves, etc. Thank goodness that I did!

Here are some news stories and photographs: