Cyclone Dineo started pounding some parts of Zimbabwe last week, with sustained heavy winds and torrential rains after devastating several regions in Mozambique.
Heavy rains continued in Matabeleland in several areas, which were already water-logged due to previous heavy rains.
In 2000, Cyclone Eline devastated some Zimbabwe regions leaving almost 136 people dead and 59,184 houses damaged.
The cyclone also killed 20,000 livestock and damaged 230 dams, 538 schools, 54 clinics and 14,999 toilets. I well remember driving to Chimanimani with a chainsaw and a winch on the Landcruiser and cutting down several trees that had been lashed over in the horrendous winds.
Not much news yet on the destructive force of Dineo, but citizens of Bulawayo have so far been nothing but euphoric about the torrential rains that feel as the Cyclonic winds traveled up the Limpopo channel ending up in southern Matabeleland.
The list of dams now spilling in Matabeleland is growing, including the Mangwe Dam, Mtshabezi Dam, Mayfair dam and of course Upper Ncema, so important to Bulawayo's water supply. The Dam went from just under 75% to 100% in 24 hours!
One hopes that the houseboat owners of houseboats in Lower Ncema were out in full force this weekend moving their houseboats to higher ground!!
The Maleme dam wall is so far under water that its invisible!! The Bulawayo Golf Club fairways were completely flooded, (ruined the golf of course - sigh.)
Many reports of farm dams filling have come flooding in, (no pun intended!) and so far no bad news stories have been reported: we just pray for the Tokwe-Mukosi Dam this year!!
The Matsheumhlope River or the 'Stench Trench' as it is know fondly to residents, went amok, but not as badly as it did 27 years ago on the same day exactly, February 17th, when it washed David Coltart's VW Beetle downstream!!
The rains spread as far north as Binga, and that I know for a fact as the ceiling of the bedroom at our lake house, partially collapsed!
Bulawayo and Matabeleland in general experienced very heavy and widespread rain last week. In the twelve hours or so from 4 o'clock on Friday morning, most areas received in excess of 140 millimetres - Burnside had 145 and the better side of Suburbs 142! Some reported even more.
This ranks in Burnside at least as the second heaviest rainfall in a 24-hour period in the last sixty years or so, surpassed only by the 149 mm that fell on 8 February 1977. 1977/78 was Bulawayo's wettest season on record - there was an incredible 1376 mm. The five wettest seasons in the last sixty years (again in Burnside) are:
Wettest: 1977/78: 1376 mm
2nd wettest: 1973/74: 1020 mm
3rd wettest: 1999/00: 999 mm
4th wettest: 1980/81: 870 mm
5th wettest: 2016/17: 784 mm (to date)
This January just past was the wettest January in sixty years at 357 mm and not far behind the wettest month of all which was February 2000 with 386 mm.
With a month plus to go and more rain forecast in the coming weeks, the current season may yet make the top three!
(Figures provided by Paul Kaufman to whom grateful thanks.)
The Upper Ncema Dam has reached the 100 percent mark and is now spilling. The previous morning the dam was at 74.55%. When the rainy season started it was at 1.59% having been decommissioned.
Harare - Two Air Force of Zimbabwe helicopters were deployed to airlift to safety at least 50 families stranded by floods this weekend in the southern district of Tsholotsho, a minister said.
BULAWAYO might even kiss water problems goodbye after it emerged that three of its supply dams, Upper Ncema, Mtshabezi and Insiza Mayfair were now spilling following incessant rains that pounded Matabeleland South on Friday due to a tropical depression.
Over the weekend one of the dams, Upper Ncema turned into a mini-tourist attraction as hundreds of people from Esigodini and Bulawayo flocked to the dam to catch a glimpse of the spectacular waterfalls reminiscent of the famous Victoria Falls.
This was the first time the dam had spilled in more than two decades.
"If you came here last year you wouldn't believe this (spill), you could actually walk into the dam but with the rain gauge at Falcon College recording 132 millimetres this is expected. The last time this dam spilled was in 1994. We have been coming here for years on fishing expeditions," said an Esigodini farmer, Mr William Sinclair, who has been residing in the area for the past 36 years.
The filling up and rising of water levels of the city's supply dams, which had a combined water holding capacity of about 30 percent before the onset of the rains last year comes as a relief to the residents who endured 72 hours of water shedding in October and November last year.
Bulawayo City Council spokesperson Mrs Nesisa Mpofu said despite these positive changes they were still encouraging residents to conserve water so that the city does not once again experience a stringent water shedding regime.
"By midday Saturday we had three dams which had reached their 100 percent mark. These dams are Insiza Mayfair which started spilling end of January 2017 and Upper Ncema, which started spilling on the evening of 17 February 2017 and Mtshabezi which reached the 100 percent mark on the afternoon of Saturday 18 February. The City of Bulawayo is thankful of the inflows that have been received to date and we are seeing a significant rise in the other dams. We encourage residents to, however, continue to conserve water," said Mrs Mpofu.
However, as Bulawayo was celebrating the water levels its supply dams, the rains have also brought a fair share of misery to people in Bulawayo and its surroundings.
Motorists and the general traveling public were yesterday left stranded after Nkankezi Bridge in Filabusi, along the Masvingo-Mbalabala Road was partially washed away by floods on Friday. Police were deployed to the bridge to ensure that no motorist risked crossing the damaged bridge.
Matabeleland South provincial administrator Mrs Sithandiwe Ncube confirmed the destruction of the bridge and said engineers were working flat out to repair the facility to enable traffic to pass.
"The Masvingo-Mbalabala Road is impassable as the bridge at Nkankezi River was partially washed away by the rains on Friday. It's a deadly trap because half the bridge was damaged and only one traffic lane remains, which means no car, especially heavy vehicles, can drive through.
"Police are camped there to make sure no one crosses. Engineers are working on the bridge," she said.
Mrs Ncube said all the water bodies in the province were flooded, with some dams having been washed away, while Insiza Mayfair Dam has had its flood gates opened to prevent it from bursting.
She said the floods had also seen some parts of Gwanda Town and Filabusi going without water as water pumps at supply dams for the two centres have been submerged in the floods.
Mrs Ncube said there were no casualties that have been reported so far, but some families had been displaced by the floods which also destroyed their properties.
"Several dams were washed away. I can mention Wanezi in Insiza District, where three families were also displaced. The families are now camped at Mazeya Primary School.
"A total of 11 people were marooned at the confluence of Mashowe and Tuli Rivers. They were rescued but, however, their property was destroyed," she said.
In Umguza, Redbank area Umguza River was overflowing with flood water as its banks had burst due to excessive rains.
Maize, millet and sorghum were submerged in water and some of it washed away by the rains.
One house close to the Victoria Falls highway was submerged halfway by the flood waters.
Villagers in that areas said they have never witnessed such levels of water before.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) last week said at least 100 of the country's major dams were now full and spilling, raising the risk of flooding in many parts of the country.
The Bulawayo Power Boat Club at Lower Ncema Dam has issued a kind statement.
'Should you wish to go and see Lower Ncema full - In community spirit B.P.B.C. will drop their normal charges to $2 / adult for this week until Sat ( Mon 20th - Mon 27th Feb 2017). Definitely worth a visit as this hasn't happened since 2000. This charge will be purely to help cover the costs of fixing the bridge which got a bit damaged this weekend and the 6km of dirt road.
Cyclone Dineo is now no longer a threat. The tropical depression has moved into Namibia now.