Storm Warning

Private Property South Africa
Shaun Wewege

Despite our grey buildings, abundance of shopping malls and highways that are always under construction (and soon to be tolled), there is a spectacle Johannesburg offers that inspires awe in all those who witness it – a thunderstorm. The fabled highveld storm creates a visual and aural experience that can impress and frighten in one go. And for the homeowner, they often make other plans for your savings or year-end bonus.

After a recent spate of rainy weather we noticed wet tiles in our dining area. I put it down to forgetfulness because on each occasion I’d left the windows open and returned to find that my home was one part water park. However, the most recent drenching occurred while we were home with the windows closed. The rain hammered the roof and leaked through a single crack at a rate that, if you experienced similar while on a ship, would cause you to reach for a lifejacket and head for the nearest raft. The cost? The best quote we’ve received so far is worth a return plane ticket to Europe (in peak season). Score: homeowner 0; thunderstorm 1.

At my previous complex we had neighbours who decided to pave part of their garden. The result was rainwater that ran straight off rather than seeping into the ground. And where did the water run? Into our garden, often flooding it. The cats were not impressed, the garden gnome drowned and the rain spiders moved indoors. I can’t put a monetary cost on this episode but having the cats leave dead spiders and a Parktown prawn in your shoes is never pleasant. Score: homeowner 0; thunderstorm 2.

We’ve slowly but surely attempted to build an outdoor entertainment area. At the moment it consists of a concrete slab and a gazebo type structure for shade, but if you have enough wine it’s party central. After a big storm the gazebo had started to sag because the water collected in the canvas instead of running off. I decided to empty the water by pushing the bits that were sagging upwards so that it would run off. It did. All over me. Leaving me freezing and in need of a change of clothes. We may also need to rethink our current gazebo. Bye-bye bonus. Score: homeowner 0; thunderstorm 3.

Despite the unexpected costs that a sudden downpour can bring our highveld storms also give Joburgers a few reasons to be cheerful:

• We can continue to drive badly but have a scapegoat – the rain.

• We can be late for or miss meetings altogether – traffic is terrible when it storms.

• The cold that accompanies rain gives the perfect excuse to drink red wine.

• After rainy spells, we celebrate the return of sunny weather with a braai and a few beers.

Enjoy the thunderstorms. Remember to keep your homeowner’s insurance policies paid up – you never know what the next downpour might bring.

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