Rare snowfall stuns much of South Africa
People react as a rare snow fall hits Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012. (AP / Jon Gambrell)
Published Tuesday, August 7, 2012 9:37AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 7, 2012 1:24PM EDT
Snowball fights, toboggan runs and slippery streets are old hat for Canadians accustomed to the worst snow storms winter has to offer, but a dusting of the white stuff for South Africans is enough to get the entire country excited.
After temperatures dropped below the freezing mark Monday night, heavy snow was reported in the Western Cape Mountains, the Eastern Cape, Lesotho and the Drakensburg mountains.
By Tuesday morning, the snowfall grew more widespread, propelled by the extreme cold snap gripping Africa's southernmost country.
By mid-afternoon, the South African Weather Service confirmed snow in every province except Limpopo, where officials said an official report had yet to be filed.
But satellite images, they said, indicated snow had fallen there too.
Snow is not unheard of in parts of South Africa, particularly in the mountainous regions where there is even a ski resort.
But it's unusual, even in those areas, for so much snow to fall that roads have to be closed, as they were Tuesday.
The snow was so heavy that several border posts between South Africa and Lesotho were shut and the highway linking the commercial hub Johannesburg to the continent's busiest airport Durban was also closed to traffic for several hours.
The snow in Johannesburg -- where officials say it has snowed on just 22 days in more than a century -- was the heaviest in more than 30 years and the first since 2007.
That inspired everyone, from schoolchildren to office workers, to brave the cold winds and frosty temperatures to head into the streets for a first-hand taste of the white stuff.
"I have never seen snow in Jo'burg," Refilwe Kgofelo told reporters, barely containing her thrill as she proudly clutched a ball of the cold, sticky stuff.
"And this is my first time experiencing snow!" she cheered.
Most shared her excitement to merely touch or taste the snow, while others fashioned tiny snowmen, rode makeshift toboggans, waged impromptu snowball battles and posed for commemorative pictures.
The South African Weather Service is calling for more snow overnight Tuesday and cold temperatures in the coming days, but the mercury is expected to creep back up in time for the country's national Women's Day holiday on Thursday.