Eskom, aliens, Armageddon ... exactly what happened in Durban last night?

Suthentira Govender Senior reporter
An uprooted tree outside Musgrave Centre after the storm.
An uprooted tree outside Musgrave Centre after the storm.
Image: Supplied

A raging wind storm with periodic bolts of lightning during a major power outage left Durban residents questioning what happened on Tuesday night.

Large parts of the city were without electricity, which the eThekwini Municipality said was caused by a trip at its Klaarwater electricity substation, a key Eskom supply point.

eThekwini spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said power was restored to most affected areas late on Tuesday night.

By Wednesday morning social media platforms were abuzz about the events that unfolded.

Several large trees were uprooted in Musgrave after the wind storm.

A Facebook user said: “So what happened last night over Durban? Residents experienced a very sudden change of weather and what seemed like a heavy storm coming in. Lots of wind knocking down branches and trees, some colourful lights in the sky, and then most of Durban suddenly lost power. What's strange about it is that there was no rain despite there being lightning, the air was dry and hot, and then it all passed as suddenly as it came. Some people jokingly saying aliens had visited us.

“While it's still unconfirmed, it seems like the explanation is that we experienced a rare meteorological event known as a Heat Burst, where dense air suddenly falls towards the ground at night, usually during late spring, causing compression of ground-level air which can result in very strong hot winds and in some cases lightning, as we experienced.”

Julius Mahlangu, SA Weather Service (SAWS) forecaster in Durban, said Berg winds and a cold front were responsible for the unusual weather.

“There was a cold front that was approaching from the west, which resulted in Berg winds — which are warm and dry — coming from the interior of the country to the coast.

“They caused an increase in temperature and rather warm winds last night.

“The Berg winds happened earlier. In terms of speed, they were around five to 10 knots.

“After the passing of cold front, the strong winds followed. Those were up to 20 knots.

“This is what we recorded at the King Shaka International Airport station. It is possible that winds were stronger in other parts.

“I wouldn’t say the outage and the weather were linked. People have their own theories and these must be taken with a pinch of salt.”


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