Patrick Chitumba Midlands Bureau Chief
THE Meteorological Services Department has described the “snow” that fell in Lower Gweru last Friday as a rare sleet phenomenon that has taken place in the country for the first time in history.
In an interview following a visit to Matshabeleni and Sikombingo Villages in Lower Gweru yesterday, the head of public weather services in the Meteorological Services Department, Tich Zinyemba, said sleet was precipitation in the form of ice pellets created by the freezing of rain as it falls.
He said chances for the country to have snow were next to zero since Zimbabwe was in the hot tropical region.
“We know in Zimbabwe that snow doesn’t happen because we are in the tropical region where temperatures are hot and therefore chances of getting snow are really next to zero. However, the Friday occurrence was very interesting. If you recall, we did make a weather forecast on Monday last week that there was likely to be a dramatic change in weather and this is what happened here in terms of thunder storms and very cold temperatures in the southern part of the country including this area here,” said Zinyemba.
“That feature is what causes all this abnormal weather. In as far as my institutional memory is concerned, we have never experienced anything like this and therefore it’s a first I’m sure in Zimbabwe.”
Headman, Barnabas Fuzane of Matshabeleni said the sleet restricted movement of both people and animals.
He said the sleet started falling on Friday last week at 7PM and lasted for about 30 minutes, leaving a trail of destruction.
“We lost our vegetables, some property and food as the sleet entered our homesteads. Small animals like rabbits and snakes also died while trees in general were pruned of their leaves. We appeal for food aid,” Fuzane said.
“The depth of the ice was 30 centimetres and it is a very rare phenomenon in the country and only happened within a short radius of 5km.” Some villagers said they were terrified by the thunder, lightning and strong winds that accompanied the sleet. “I prayed to God asking for forgiveness because I thought the world was coming to an end. Those 30 minutes were like a nightmare. Our huts were filled sleet which then melted into water,” said Norah Lunga, a villager.