Perhaps you read the title of this post and thought “Oh no! Who is sick? Who got injured?” I’m happy to report that all Shermans are healthy and uninjured. However, we are watching with great amusement (read: borderline annoyance) some very interesting weather down here in the Cape of South Africa that they call “Cape Doctor”.
We checked into our very quirky Airbnb 10 days ago and we’ve been acclimating a bit while catching up on homeschool. The other night at bedtime we noticed some strong winds. Our house is tucked into the side of a mountain so we figured there was some weather system or storm coming through. We watched it for a bit, we thought we saw the cloud formation that was bringing the storm and we assumed it would be over soon.
Uh, no. Not even.
We noticed that the “storm” kept coming. Wind gust after wind gust just kept coming. Sometimes it was so strong we were convinced the house was going to blow away. The bottom floor of this house is concrete so nothing down there is moving but the top floor is made of wood so it was a constant CREAK every time the wind blew. Imagine the sounds a 500-year old wooden ship would make if it were rolling around in huge waves. And of course, we are new to this house so all the noises are new to us.
We are also new to this area so we really have no idea what’s happening. Is this some kind of storm of the century? What is happening here? Why isn’t there 24-hour news station broadcasting live on the street corner, over-exaggerating the already strong winds?
We watched the trees all around the house and they were bending tremendously but NOTHING was breaking. The whole situation was so odd. It was also odd that we could not find anything about it online. This house has no cable TV so there was no news channel to find, but looking on the weather app it said we were getting wind at 13 km /hour. No, not even. This wind felt like it was over 100 km/hour. Turns out it was. The top speed was clocked at 120 km/hour (74 MPH for you poor imperial system peeps).
We also thought the storm would surely pass after a few hours. We were wrong about that too. It lasted all. night. long. It went on and on and on and into the next day until late in the afternoon. None of us slept much that night since every gust felt like it would surely take the entire house. Imagine listening to the freight train sound of a tornado, ALL NIGHT LONG!
Here is an audio recording Dan made from his iPhone. Turn up your volume full blast and it still won’t be as loud as it ACTUALLY was in person. What seems like background mic hiss is the actual wind outside. The sounds of popping are the walls and roof over our heads. And this is a REALLY nice house… not a shack. Try sleeping with that going on all night long.
So that next day, we were all pretty much toast. We were not able to attend a social event we had been invited to because after a night of no sleep we simply could not drive an hour first thing in the morning to go on a hike. And how would we hike in this wind anyway?? Don’t they know there’s a tornado in town?
The next day I started tuning into local social media and here’s what I found out:
What?? This tornado-like weather is NORMAL?
Well it started to make more sense. The town looked like nothing had happened. No tree branches everywhere, no businesses missing roofs, no piles of building walls laying in the street. It just looked like business as usual. On the street parallel to the beach I saw some sand drifts but that was about all. We found out this periodic wind is called the “Cape Doctor”. It’s just part of living here. They just have really strong winds.
Here’s what I found online about the Cape Doctor:
The Cape Doctor is the local name for the strong south-eastern wind – also known as South-Easter – that blows from False Bay and funnels through to Cape Town and Blouberg. It is said to clear all pollution in the city and across the Cape Flats, offering an amazing clear sky and view of the Mother City.
One part of the wind force picks up warm moisture from the False Bay waters and blows it around the eastern flank of Table Mountain. Pushing up the air against the slopes of Table Mountain, thus, creating the clouds – and rain – along the eastern slope. This phenomenon is locally known as ‘the Table cloth’: a huge cloud hoovers on top of Table Mountain, dripping over the mountainside. The Cape Doctor usually starts blowing from end of August to March and is most active in November. Gale force winds might just blow your mind. (By Elske van der Velden)
It is known as the Cape Doctor because of a local belief that it clears Cape Town of pollution and ‘pestilence’.
We saw that Table Cloth effect the other day while driving back from the mall. Here’s a picture Haley snapped while Dan refused to slow down.
A few days after our first big “Cape Doctor” we had another night of it. We slept better this time, but it still was difficult with all the inconsistent noise. In the middle of the night I remembered that this house has a nice wooden table on the front patio, and usually it’s held together by a huge bungee cord that wraps all around the chairs and keeps them hugged tight to the table. That morning I had dismantled the bungee system to sit there but I had not re-attached the cord when I left. As the wind whipped that second night I wondered if I would soon hear the crash of the table and/or the chairs flying through the air. I got up and made a halfhearted attempt to go out to the patio to secure them but to no avail. I could barely get the door open and I knew the minute I let go of it it would slam behind me and lock me out. I decided I would not risk it and hope the chairs and table would just blow into a corner and stay there.
The next morning there was a bicycle race scheduled but due to the strong winds it was cancelled. Evidently it’s fairly unusual to have the Cape Doctor visit so late in the season. So they probably felt it was safe to a bike race this time of year. But since the Cape Doctor was in full swing, they obviously can’t have a bike race. Click the link below and watch the videos of the poor cyclists trying to do their race with the strong winds. It’s comical really, that they even tried at all. But it made for very entertaining videos.
As I type this the wind is whipping yet again, doors are shaking and creaking and I’m drying our laundry inside because they’d never stay on the line. I’ve lost count of how many days we’ve had this strong wind and we’ve learned that it’s just part of daily life down here in the Cape of Africa.