Rain damage

The recent and sudden heavy rainfall wreaked havoc not only in urban spaces but in certain regions of the Cape winelands. The most rain recorded was 250 mm, which came down within a space of half an hour. The fact that it came down almost all at once was compounded by the fact that due to very good rainfall throughout the winter months the water table was saturated and the rain had nowhere to go but sideways. The most damage caused was structural, with roads closed on mountain passes due to mudslides, flooding of residential areas and communication breakdown where telephone lines were down.

The worst vineyard damage was recorded at Vergelegen (250 mm). Winemaker André van Rensburg estimated a drop of 20–25% in production volume, mainly due to the damage to flowering vines. Calculating this along with infrastructural damage, he estimated that this weekend’s downpour will cost Vergelegen between eight and 12 million rand.

It’s clear that the worst downpour was in the Somerset West area. Vergelegen’s neighbour, Morgenster, had severe flooding of the manor house and jonkershuis, and vast tracts of road were washed away. Their disaster bill will doubtless not be much less than Vergelegen’s.

Closer to Stellenbosch, Kevin Arnold at Waterford Estate and Alex Starey at Keermont Vineyards reported 90–110 mm of rainfall and no damage. The big challenge now is to prevent downy mildew in the vineyards and with limited access to vineyards, the result could be detrimental.

The worst damage recorded overall was within the fruit industry sector, with areas such as Ceres and Witzenberg losing 50–80% of their potential harvest.

- Andre Morgenthal