By Nqobile Tshili
The Civil Protection Unit (CPU) is on standby for evacuations in flood prone areas of the country after the Meteorological Service Department (MSD) warned that tropical cyclones and serious floods remain a real danger in the second half of the 2020/21 rainy season.
Pedestrians cross a flooded Umguza river near Mandalay in Umguza district
The weather forecaster predicted extremely heavy rains exceeding 30 millimetres (mm) in 24 hours to sweep across most parts of the country this week.
“Heavy storms, flash floods, flooding and tropical cyclones cannot be ruled out as the season progresses,” read an MSD statement yesterday.
Already, some dams in the country are spilling and rain continues to fall in abundance in a rainy season expected to end in March.
The ground is already supersaturated with water in most areas, so all rain water immediately becomes run-off and increases the chances of dangerous flash flooding countrywide.
The MSD had predicted normal to above normal rainfall in the 2020/21 rainy season owing to the La Nina climate pattern in Pacific Ocean, with improved rains expected across the Sadc region.
The weather forecaster said the country has recorded more than 300mm of rains so far across most parts the country, pointing to significant rainfall.
Normally from October to December the country receives subdued rainfall compared to the January to March second-half of the rainy season.
The country in December escaped tropical cyclone Chalane after the storm downgraded into a weakened tropical depression.
Since the start of the 2020/21 rainy season, inflows into national dams have significantly improved.
The Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) said since the start of the 2020/21 rainy season, the country has recorded a 27,7 percent increase in national dam levels as the national average has jumped to 67 percent.
CPU director Mr Nathan Nkomo told the Chronicle recently that the $100 million that Government released to the CPU to attend to possible rain related disasters when cyclone Chalane was expected to hit the country will be used to attend to eventualities during the 2020/2021 rainy season.
In a statement yesterday, the MSD said rain related disasters remain a possibility during the second-half of the rainy season as heavier falls are still expected.
The rains have cut a wide swathe of destruction, destroying property in Bulawayo, Midlands, Matabeleland and other parts of the country while people have drowned in flooded rivers.
Six people travelling in an Isuzu double cab were swept away at flooded Gweru River Bridge on Sunday. Two bodies were recovered on Monday and four are still missing.
“The observations made in the current season are that heavy storms are getting more frequent. Due to the significant rainfall amounts that were recorded across most parts of the country during the first half of the season (October-
November-December) it is important to be on the watch for flood related disasters during the second-half,” warned MSD in the statement.
MSD Agriculture Meteorologist Mr Benjamin Kwenda said heavier falls are still expected.
“As we go further into the season, because much of our heavy rains start from December, January, February and when we say most of the stations have surpassed the 300mm mark, in other words we are saying we have quite significant amounts throughout those places. As we are going forward it means we are expecting heavier amounts.
The expectation is that by the end of the season we would have received quite a lot of rainfall in most parts of the country,” said Mr Kwenda.
“The implication on this is that most of the dam levels have improved, there is also an increase in the ground water recharge and what we have received so far has gone into the soil and it means in terms of the water table there has been an improvement.”
He said an improved water table can spell doom for those living in flood prone areas.
“In the context of flooding, you are looking at that most of the soil is soaked and it means if we are to get heavy rainfalls much of the rain is not going to sink into the soil. There will be an increased runoff and there is an increased risk of flooding especially in those flood prone areas.
But in the context of the water table there is also an element of improvement in the water supply situation especially to those who have been relying on boreholes as well,” he said.
Mr Kwenda said the rains mean pastures are at their best but pests could be on the increase.
“It also means that in terms of pastures in areas such as Matabeleland North and South where most of our agriculture is predominantly livestock. It means we have a regeneration of pasture in most of those areas. It means livestock can get some feed.
But the other thing to watch out for is that in these conditions, pests and diseases are also thriving as well because they have a lot of food and stuff to feed on. The other thing to watch out for is the sprouting of fall armyworm,” said Mr Kwenda.
Meanwhile, Zinwa corporate communications and marketing officer Mr Tsungirirai Shoriwa said the national dam levels have increased to 67 percent from around 40 percent in October at the onset of the rainy season.
“The improvements in the dam levels point to better raw water security for the country’s urban areas and improved water security for the 2021 winter cropping season.
Despite these increases, the Zinwa reminds the nation that water remains a finite resource which needs to be conserved and efficiently used all the times. Raw water users drawing water from Zinwa managed dams are advised to ensure that such use is in terms of water abstraction agreements as specified in the Water Act,” said Mr Shoriwa.
Bulawayo’s supply dam levels have increased to 42 percent from 22 percent at the start of the season which is below the national average of inflows.
Insiza dam is now 53 percent full, Inyakuni 47 percent, Lower Ncema 21 percent, Umzingwane 22 percent, Upper Ncema 31 percent and Mtshabezi 32 percent. The Chronicle.