The History of Snow in Southern AfricaThere is a widely held belief by many that it never snows in Africa. Not true! With the help of today’s online resources we have managed to compile quite a detailed history of snow in Southern Africa. But we want even more Snow Reporters! So dig out all your old family photos or hound your local historical society and send us as many great pictures as you have of snow in South Africa through the decades! So let’s start the meandering down history lane all the way back in 1853… (please note this long article is now broken up into two pages – before and after 2010)
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History of Snow between 1850 – 1860
03 September 1853A snowstorm occurred in the Eastern Cape where hundreds of people froze to death in the districts of Graaff-Reinet, Burgersdorp and Somerset East. Here is an extract from the South African Commercial Advertiser 1853 which may have been written just before the weather hit in full and deadly force. “We have been blessed with a gentle warm rain during the past week. In the Camdeboo, however, we noticed the mountains were thickly covered with snow, so that we may anticipate a continuance of the delightfully cold bracing weather which has set in after the rain.”
History of Snow between 1880 – 1890
11-14 July 1886Snow fell from Sunday afternoon until Wednesday morning in the Eastern Cape. At Graaff-Reinet the snow was lying 30cm deep, residents who had been living there for more than 60 years had never seen anything like it. At Molteno the snow was 60 cm deep, and there were many stock losses. Tulbagh circa 1900’s sent in via Jim Thorne Jnr Tulbagh circa 1900’s sent in via Jim Thorne Jnr
History of Snow between 1900 – 1910
10-12 June 1902The most severe snowstorm to hit the country swept over a large portion of the interior. On the 9th it also snowed on the Palmiet River flats at Caledon. During the next three days snow fell unceasingly in the Karoo, Eastern and North-Eastern Cape, the Free State and Natal. Strong winds accompanied the snowstorm and there were great stock losses. In the North-Eastern Cape, where the snow lay 60 cm deep, tens of thousands of small stock perished. In East Griqualand, the snow lay 1,5 metres deep, and more than 13 000 sheep froze to death. This snowstorm was known as the Peace Snow, as the Anglo-Boer War ended in May 1902.
08 August 1905The Great Blizzard, as it was known, struck Natal and adjacent territories. Intense winds with rain, hail, snowfalls, flooding, thunder and lightning caused widespread devastation in much of Natal. Many people died of exposure and were later found buried in snowdrifts.
08 August 1906Heavy snowfalls fell over the South-Western Cape. In Upper Roeland Street snowballs were being thrown early that morning. Heavy snowfalls were also reported in Worcester, Touws River and the Langkloof. For the first time in living memory, it also snowed for half an hour in George.
1908Florence Kent Liddle on top of Table Mountain in 1908, holding an ice shard. Her granddaughter, Jenny Roos Fletcher says, ” I wonder how she climbed up there in a long skirt!”
16-17 August 1909The heaviest snowfall yet was recorded in Johannesburg. It started snowing on the evening of the 16th and carried on through the next day. Snow lay 30-40 cm deep. On the 17th the temperature remained below freezing point all day.
History of Snow between 1910 – 1920
29-30 September 1913Heavy snow fell on Monday evening and on Tuesday at Venterstad, Lady Grey and Elliot where it lay 30 cm deep in town. Heavy stock losses were suffered. Snow also fell at Kimberley for the first time in 30 years.
24 August 1914Snow started falling at 10 a.m. that Monday in Great Drakenstein valley and continued until 12:30. The depth of snow varied from about 4 cm in the valley to nearly 8 cm higher up. Snow was also recorded in the streets of Paarl for the first time in its history
18 July 1915Snow fell in Johannesburg and lay 5 to 7 cm deep. Light falls were reported the next day.
08-10 August 1917Snow fell intermittently but was washed away by rain.
History of Snow between 1920 – 1930
07-09 September 1921Heavy snow fell over the eastern interior. At Kokstad it started snowing early on Wednesday morning (the 7th) and continued for 15 hours. On Thursday morning snow fell for many hours at Ladysmith and most of the Natal interior. In the Midlands it was lying 35 to 40 cm deep (Greytown vicinity). At Newcastle the depth was 10 cm. Snow fell at Volksrust and Harrismith. Between Harrismith and Van Reenen snow lay up to 60 cm deep on the rail tracks. More snow fell on Friday (the 9th) over the south-eastern Transvaal and that morning also in Johannesburg.
15-20 May 1922Heavy snowfalls fell over the interior, in places up to a metre deep. Natal was cut off from the rest of the country for six days. There was also snow in some parts of the Free State.
11 July 1926Snow started falling in the Witwatersrand early in the afternoon and continued for about three hours. At places in Johannesburg city centre snow lay up to 7 cm deep and telephone wires broke under the weight of snow. Snow fell at Brakpan, Germiston and Krugersdorp where it was measured at 12 cm deep. The eastern Highveld saw light snow falls.
03-04 September 1926Heavy snowfalls over the south-eastern Transvaal that Friday and Saturday. In Volksrust it lay 20 cm deep. The Wakkerstroom area was covered in a white blanket and large stock losses were suffered. Light snow fell at Klerksdorp. The eastern Free State, Reitz, Bethlehem and Memel also had heavy snowfalls.
08-10 July 1929On the 4th and again from the 8th to the 10th snow fell over an extensive area of the southern Cape, from Laingsburg / Fraserburg to as far as Middelburg / Cradock, and also at George. At Paardekraal in the Beaufort West district the average snow depth was 60 cm.
History of Snow between 1930 – 1940
22-24 June 1933Fairly heavy snowfalls were reported on the Hex River mountains and in the central and south-eastern Cape.
28-29 August 1933Heavy snow fell over the southern and Eastern Cape. In the Eastern Cape farmers lost 50 000 head of small stock.
26 May 1935Snow fell in the evening in Bloemfontein and over the southern Free State.
10-11 September 1936Heavy snow, accompanied by strong south-westerly winds, fell over the Eastern Cape, Natal, the eastern Free State, the Highveld, and as far north as Pietersburg. There were heavy stock losses and several people froze to death. On the 11th it snowed all day in Johannesburg.
24-25 September 1939Heavy snowfalls were experienced in the north-eastern Cape.
History of Snow between 1940 – 1950
05 May 1940A severe snowstorm, accompanied in many places by heavy rainfall, caused extensive damage in the Eastern Cape, Natal, the Free State and the Highveld. Main line trains between Natal and the Transvaal were delayed for hours. Snow fell at Standerton, Breyten, Ermelo, Piet Retief, Volksrust and other towns in the area.
10-15 July 1947Rain, snow and gale-force winds were experienced over the southern Cape. The mountains around Ceres were white with snow. A piercing wind blew over the snow-capped hills of the Karoo. On the 14th and 15th it snowed at Uniondale, and at Adelaide it was the heaviest snowfalls seen in living memory, with sheep deep in snow up to their bellies. Heavy snow also fell at Hogsback.
July 1948Snow reported to have fallen on top of Table Mountain and Snowy mountains visible from Worcester high street
25 July 1949The mountains at Worcester and the Hottentots-Holland Mountains were already snow-covered early that morning. It also snowed that morning at Noupoort, Coligny and Mafikeng. The heaviest snowfall was over the north-eastern Cape, the southern and north-eastern Free State, the Drakensberg area, the eastern Transvaal and the Natal Midlands.
History of Snow between 1950 – 1960
06-07 December 1950Yes, it is the height of the South African summer, but snow fell on the Wintershoek Mountains near Tulbagh on the 6th. The next day it snowed in the districts of Murraysburg, Aberdeen and Tarkastad. In Cradock, where it started falling in the morning, the snow was 20 cm deep by 13:00.
24-25 July 1951Heavy snow fell in the Boland. It snowed on Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak, Stellenboschberg and the mountains at Great Drakenstein. The higher mountains towards the interior received the heaviest snowfalls in many years. Loeriesfontein also saw heavy snowfalls, as well as in the Karoo and the Eastern Cape. In Cradock the snow lay 30 cm deep. At Palingskloof in the district snow completely covered fences on some farms.
May 1952Heavy snow fell in the Boland. It snowed on Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak and Stellenboschberg.
29 July 1953Snow fell at Springbok for the first time since 1927.
13-14 September 1953Large parts of the country were covered by a snow blanket. Several mountain passes were closed. At Sutherland the snow lay 20 cm deep on some farms. De Aar and Venterstad also saw snow. Molteno had the heaviest snowfall in 25 years. At Mount Frere it lay up to a metre deep on the mountains. Heavy snow fell in Natal, as well as the eastern Transvaal. From Bethal to beyond Ermelo it lay 30 cm deep in places. Immense stock losses were suffered. At Dordrecht snow lay 2,5 metres deep, causing road closures.
01-03 July 1957Heavy snowfalls and rain over northern Natal and the eastern Highveld.
31 August 1959Heavy snow fell over East Griqualand and the Natal interior. For the first time in 30 years, it snowed in the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg. The Boland and southern Cape mountains were covered in snow. Volksrust also reported heavy snowfalls.
12-13 September 1959Heavy snow fell on the 12th on the Boland mountains, and later over the areas to the east. In the Eastern Cape cars had to be towed out by tractors, whilst in Volksrust cars were stuck in 60 cm deep snow. On the 13th Bethal experienced its heaviest snowfall, whilst it snowed that afternoon in Johannesburg, Boksburg and the West Rand. That evening snow fell at Voortrekkerhoogte.
History of Snow between 1960 – 1970
26-28 August 1962After heavy snowfalls on 05-06 May and again on 13-14 June, this rough Cape winter was hit hard on Sunday, 26 August. At Matroosberg, heavy snowfall was accompanied by heavy rain and gale-force winds. The heavy snowfalls spread eastwards over most of the country on the 27th and covered the Karoo, Natal, the Free State and the south-eastern Transvaal. Johannesburg saw its heaviest snowfall since 1936. The Magaliesberg mountains also received snow. Natal saw its heaviest snowfalls in 20 years.
02 July 1963Heavy rain fell in the Namib region, with snow on the Aus and on the sand dunes between Aus and Luderitz. Snowfalls up to 60 cm deep were experienced in the eastern interior of South Africa, with the heaviest falls at Standerton, Bethal, Ermelo, Volksrust and Majuba. Snow also fell at Louis Trichardt, Johannesburg and Lyttleton on the 3rd. Wakkerstroom was cut off from the outside world for several days.
18-19 June 1964The Free State, Eastern Cape, Natal and southern Transvaal saw heavy snowfalls. Several places were isolated, with Bloemfontein hardest hit with snow lying 60 cm deep. The snowfall in Pretoria on the 18th was the heaviest in 30 years. After heavy snowfalls in Johannesburg on the 18th, light snow fell the next day. In the north-eastern Cape there was snow up to the 25th and helicopters were used to bring relief to people and animals isolated for several days. Further snowfalls were experienced during the rest of the winter and as late as the beginning of October.
16-18 June 1965Heavy snow again fell in the Eastern Cape and Natal, with several towns being isolated. Middelburg, Cradock, Dordrecht, Barkly East and Maclear saw heavy snowfalls. There were heavy stock losses. The Free State also saw heavy snowfalls.
18 October 1965Heavy snowfalls caused large-scale disruptions and heavy stock losses in the eastern interior. The Natal-Transvaal border areas had snow more than a metre deep. The Reef also had some snow.
12-14 July 1967Heavy snow started falling on the evening of the 12th, mostly in the Eastern Cape. Train services were disrupted, mountain passes were impassable and farmers were isolated on their farms. Snow lay up to two metres deep on the mountains. The snow weather advanced eastwards to Natal and also the eastern Transvaal. Johannesburg had light snowfalls on the 14th. South-eastern Transvaal roads were closed.
03 June 1968Snow fell over many parts of the country during the preceding weekend. On that Monday morning heavy snow fell on the Wolkenberg near Tzaneen, the first time since September 1936.
11-12 June 1968Snow fell in many places. At Jansenville it was the first snowfall since 1886. Several mountain passes were closed and trains delayed. The Witwatersrand and some parts of Pretoria had snow on the 12th.
18 August 1968Snow fell throughout the evening of the 18th of August over the mountains of Cape Town, including Table Mountain.
History of Snow between 1970 – 1980
26-27 August 1970The Eastern Cape saw heavy snowfalls, with Queenstown by hardest hit.
06-07 December 1970Another summer snowfall. Heavy snow fell on Sunday the 6th on the Cape mountains. Several mountain passes were closed such as the Swartberg Pass, Loostberg Pass and the road across Wapadsberg. The eastern Free State and Natal saw unprecedented heavy snowfalls.
July- August 1971The Cape saw record snowfalls with snow recorded in Prince Albert, Aberdeen, Motleno, Dordrecht, Graaff-Reinet, Cradock and Middelburg, Tarkastad and New Bethesda. Wapadsberg and Lootsberg pass were both closed due to snow. It snowed in George for the first time in many years, with streets and gardens covered by 7 cm of snow. The Knysna forests had heavy falls, as did the Langkloof where snow lay 45 cm deep. Table Mountain was covered in 50 cm deep snow. Widespread snowfalls had occurred earlier that winter. On 30 April it snowed in all four provinces and on 25 June snow fell near Knysna. Heavy snow fell on 30-31 July over many areas, including Zululand where it had not snowed for 50 years. (Much of the info provided by news clippings courtesy of Des Head).
19 August 1973Widespread heavy snowfalls at Graaff-Reinet, Middelburg and Queenstown. For the first time in this century, it snowed at Bedford, Adelaide and Seymour.
20 June 1976Following snowfalls on Table Mountain and Boland mountains, heavy snow fell that Sunday over large parts of the Eastern Cape. For the first time in living memory it snowed early that morning in Grahamstown, where the snow lay 17,5 cm deep.
10-11 August 1976The Koue Bokkeveld saw some of its heaviest snowfalls for many years. Two of the three mountain passes leading to Ceres were closed. At Sutherland, the only things visible above the snow-covered ground were patches of Namaqualand daisies.
23 August 1977The eastern Highveld received heavy snowfalls that Tuesday evening, as far north as Sabie. The Long Tom Pass was closed.
History of Snow between 1980 – 1990
07-08 July 1981The Cape experienced heavy snowfalls. Porterville and Ladismith were hit. At Pearston the snow lay 15 cm deep.
28-29 August 1981Again heavy snowfalls over large parts of the Cape. De Aar saw its heaviest snowfall on Saturday the 29th. Aberdeen and Beaufort West received their heaviest snowfalls in 50 years. At Van Wyksvlei snow lay 30 cm deep. Pofadder, Upington, Kenhardt, Keimoes and Kanoneiland also received snow. Several mountain passes in the Eastern Cape were closed.
10 September 1981Large parts of the interior received heavy snowfalls on that Thursday, including the Long Tom Pass, Amersfoort, Bethal, Witbank, Standerton, Ermelo, Springs, Delmas and Vanderbijlpark. In Gauteng, September 1981 had the greatest snowfall on record, with statistics showing snowfall accumulating up to 10 centimetres across the province. In Johannesburg, where it snowed all day, it lay 15-20 cm deep. Pretoria also had some snow in the morning. Trains were delayed, hospitals had to use emergency power, and flights to and from Jan Smut International Airport were cancelled. Hundreds of telephone poles between Harrismith and Warden bent under the weight of snow.
01-02 July 1982The Eastern Cape and parts of the Free State had heavy snowfalls. Several mountain passes were closed. Light snow fell at Johannesburg on the morning of Friday the 2nd.
13-14 June 1984The Eastern Cape had heavy snowfalls on the 13th, with several mountain passes closed. The Natal Midlands were covered in a thick layer of snow. On the 14th it snowed at Volksrust, Memel, Vrede, Bethlehem and Kestell.
11-12 July 1985The southern and eastern Cape was hit with heavy snowfalls. In Sutherland the streets were covered in a 5 cm deep layer. The snowy weather spread on the Friday to Natal, the Free State and the Highveld. Snow fell at Volksrust, Standerton, Bethal and Wakkerstroom. Mountain passes on the main routes between Natal and the Transvaal were closed.
17-18 June 1987The Eastern Cape received heavy snowfalls. Several mountain passes were closed. In the Cradock district snow lay 30 cm deep. On the 25th snow fell in the eastern Free State and Drakensberg mountains.
19-20 July 1987Heavy snow fell in the Boland on the 19th. At Sarelskop near Tulbagh it had not snowed for many years. Table Mountain was lightly covered in snow. On the 20th it snowed in the Karoo, Eastern Cape, the eastern Free State, Natal and the south-eastern Transvaal. The Oliviershoek and Naudeshoek Passes were closed. Snow also fell at Long Toms Pass. Harrismith saw its heaviest snowfall in many years. Zastron had last seen such heavy snowfall in 1954. Light snow fell in the evening of the 21st in the Johannesburg vicinity.
25-26 August 1987After heavy snowfalls in the Natal interior and on the Maluti and Drakensberg mountains on the 15th and 16th August, heavy snow fell again in the eastern Free State and the Natal interior. The roads leading to Memel were closed and farmers had to shovel snow off their roofs to prevent damage. About 32 cm was measured at Van Reenen. Matatiele and Cedarville also received heavy snowfalls. In Fochville it snowed for the first time since 1967.
26-28 September 1987After snow fell on the night of Saturday the 26th in the north-eastern Cape, Sterkstroom, Dordrecht, Elliot, Molteno, Barkly East and Ugie were cut off from the outside world for several days. Dordrecht had snow lying up to a metre deep by Monday and suffered large stock losses. A passenger train was trapped in the Eastern Cape, several mountain passes were closed and towns isolated. Hikers were trapped in the Drakensberg and were rescued days later by helicopter. In Lesotho, helicopters had to ferry fresh water to isolated villages.
28 May 1988The north-eastern Cape received heavy snowfalls. At Dordrecht, where it snowed all day, the noon temperature was still 0°C. At Elliot the snow lay 10 cm deep.
08 June 1988The southern and eastern Cape mountains had heavy snowfalls. In the Swartberg Pass snow lay 1,5 metres deep.
12 June 1988It snowed on the Naudesberg east of Graaff-Reinet, and the mountains of Cradock as well as the Kouga mountains in the Langkloof.
27-28 June 1988It snowed at Bloemspruit and on the smallholdings east of Bloemfontein, in the eastern Free State and the south-eastern Transvaal. The border posts to Lesotho were closed.
09-10 July 1988Heavy snow fell on Saturday the 9th, on the Boland mountains, the Swartberg and the Outeniqua mountains. It also snowed on the Hantamberg at Calvinia, the Kamiesberge at Leliesfontein and the mountain peaks near Springbok. Heavy snow fell that evening at Somerset East, Pearston, Cradock and Dordrecht. From early on the Sunday morning heavy snow started falling over Natal, from Kokstad to Newcastle. At Bulwer it lay so deep that windows were covered in snow. Underberg and Himeville were isolated. At Nottingham Road the snow lay 30 cm deep. Ladysmith received its heaviest snowfall since 1922. The N3 and all mountain passes in the Drakensberg were closed. It snowed all day at Wakkerstroom. Volksrust had a layer 15 cm deep. More than 500 000 people in the mountainous areas of Lesotho were cut off and the South African government assisted with air transport of emergency supplies. Numerous mountain climbers were rescued by the South African Air Force.
16-18 July 1989A cold front, accompanied by heavy snow in places, moved across the sub-continent. Snow fell as far north as the Karonnaberg mountains, north of the Olifantshoek in the northern Cape. Snow also fell over Namaqualand, Bushmanland up to Prieska, Kimberley and Bloemfontein. Many mountain passes were impassable and many schools were closed.
04-05 September 1989The Koue Bokkeveld saw its heaviest snowfalls in 20 years. The Du Toitskloof Pass and Mitchell’s Pass were closed.
History of Snow between 1990 – 2000
August 1990Heavy snowfalls occurred over the month in the eastern and north-eastern Cape, Natal, the Drakensberg, and the south-eastern and eastern Transvaal. The Lootsberg and Wapadsberg Passes were closed. On the 29th heavy snow fell in the Underberg, Himeville, Matatiele, Jamestown, Dordrecht, Indwe and Elliot.
15-18 October 1990Snow fell on the mountains at Uniondale, Middelburg and Graaff-Reinet on the 15th. On the 18th it snowed at Graaff-Reinet, Middelburg, Cradock and Dordrecht, spreading to parts of Natal and the eastern Free State. Van Reenens Pass was closed to heavy vehicles. Peach and apricot crops in low-lying orchards in the eastern Free State were damaged by the cold.
1996Large swathes of South Africa turned into a winter wonderland in July, thanks to snowfall referred to as the heaviest in 15 years. Snow – up to 6 inches in some places – fell in seven of the country’s nine provinces. A cold front combined with a high moisture system created the storm and sent temperatures plunging, turning regions such as Welkom into a Winter Wonderland. The lowest temperature so far was 10 degrees at Lady Grey in Free State province south of Johannesburg. In Kroonstad, more than 2 inches of snow fell overnight – the first snow there since 1963, according to the SABC. (Snow in Underberg/Himeville, photos courtesy of Shelley Coetzer)
History of Snow between 2000 – 2010
September 2001In September of 2001 snow fell in parts of KZN, including a notable fall in Newcastle.
September 2001In September of 2001 snow fell in parts of KZN, including a notable fall in Newcastle.
July-September 20042004 photo taken from Steiltes in Nelspruit. You can see the city centre with the snow covered mountains of Lydenburg at the back – courtesy of Dewald Nel
June 2006Snow fell on South Africa’s biggest city Johannesburg for the first time in 25 years as icy temperatures gripped vast swathes of the country on Wednesday, the weather office said. Bloemfontein, the capital of the central Free State province, got its first snow in 12 years, receiving 13 centimetres (5.2 inches). August 2006 – from Caledonspoort towards Oxbow. Pass was closed due to heavy snow fall.
September 2008September 2008 there was a heavy snow fall and blizzard conditions in the KZN midlands. The Lower Lotheni / Nottingham road area experienced snow in places 400mm deep.
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