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Rare snowfall stuns much of South Africa

Wednesday, August 08, 2012    

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) — People slowly came outside despite the cold wind yesterday across South Africa, pointed their mobile phone cameras to the sky and opened their mouths to taste a rare snowfall that fell on much of the country.

The snow began yesterday morning, part of an extreme cold snap now biting into a nation still in its winter months. By mid-afternoon, officials recorded snowfall across most of South Africa. However, forecasters acknowledged snow remains so unusual that they typically aren't prepared to provide details about snowfall in the nation.

The snow closed some roads and at least one high-altitude pass. The snowfall also closed several border posts in the country.

As the snow fell, workers at offices in Johannesburg rushed outside. Some twirled and danced as the flakes fell. One man rushed to the top of a snow-covered hill and slid down, using a cardboard box as an improvised toboggan. Despite the cold and the snow, beggars who line traffic lights in the city continued to ask passing motorists for cash.

The snow grew heavier in the afternoon in Johannesburg, covering rooftops and slicking roads. Snowflakes are a rare commodity in Johannesburg, even during winter. South African Weather Service records show it has snowed in Johannesburg on only 22 other days in the last 103 years. The last snow fell there in June 2007.

In Pretoria, the country's capital, flurries filled the sky during a visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It was the first snowfall there since 1968, the weather service said.

The cold weather is expected to last a few days.

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