The floods by Jeff Clause
For the past 8 weeks, water has been accumulating in the Sand River catchments above the Sand River Bridge towards Oyster Bay. Water came into the west side of the Links in early May as well as in 2007.
For the past 6 weeks, water that would have normally flowed into the village at the main circle was captured by pumps and recycled to the top man-made dams. These pumps proved their worth as no water went across the road as it did in 2007.
This week, after another 60mm of rain fell on top of the hundreds of millimeters that the village and surrounds had received, some of the water (approximately 30% of the total water coming down the road) went across to the Bay course. This water combined with the water table and storm water from Lyme Road near the Bay course, caused their dam to overflow.
The water that was held on the west side of the road was either diverted to the north side of the circle and released further up the road or recycled back to the top.
Over the same period of time, water was entering the dunes to the west of the estate from two separate places. As the rain continued, the Sand River catchments continued to rise.
On Wednesday morning, cracks formed and water started to leak at the base of one of the big dunes. The situation was monitored through the night. Minor land slips occurred. The dunes then began to show further signs of instability and the potential for a disastrous situation arose.
At this time, we at the Links, notified various agencies to inform them of the immediate and potentially catastrophic disaster that could take place if the dunes were to go all at once or even worse, at a time when no one would be prepared to react. The fire departments in St Francis Bay and Humansdorp were notified; they then notified disaster management and the municipality. Representatives came to the Sand River catchments to evaluate the situation. The greatest concern was not if the dunes would collapse – but when.
The decision was taken to release the water gradually at a safer point in the dune complex where more vegetation and greater disbursement of the water could take place. A temporary dam constructed the day before to isolate a portion of the water also served to slow the initial flow of water. The single greatest concern was for the potential loss of life and secondly to the damage of property and the canal system that could have taken place if the dunes collapsed without warning – at any time of the day or night.
The bridge handled the flow of water until the abutments foundations deteriorated from the backwash of water on the downward side. There was no loss of life! The bridge collapsed, the canal properties were spared and other damage was, in fact, minimal to all properties below the bridge.
There were countless people who made huge contributions to minimise the damage and personal inconvenience. More than 500 people were escorted across the river from the Bay side.
Volunteers from the NSRI and locals worked with a rope line to assist anxious Humansdorp residents to safety after the dune waters subsided and the river flow slowed. People with boats assisted stranded people and personnel across the river.
The volunteer firemen, traffic police and others did their best to control the hundreds of people frustrated by the bridge collapse. Tonight, many more are working tirelessly to first, create a walking access and finally, a solution for vehicle access.
It must be emphasized again, as the stories and rumors blaming the Links are unfounded, as more than 500mm of rain has fallen and accumulated in the entire region. St Francis Links did not create this situation – on the contrary, took significant measures to protect the areas formerly ravaged by heavy floods and finally, with others made the difficult but unanimous decision to relieve the potentially catastrophic situation when all possible assistance could and would be in place.