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Snow, Freezing Temperatures Blanket South Africa

July 7, 1996

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Large swaths of South Africa turned into a winter wonderland Sunday, thanks to the heaviest snowfall in at least 15 years.

Snow _ up to six inches in some places _ fell in seven of the country’s nine provinces, a rare occurrence in a nation known more for sunshine and semi-arid plateaus.

A cold front combined with a high moisture system created the storm and sent temperatures plunging over the weekend, said Darryl Myburgh, a spokesman for the national weather service in Pretoria.

The lowest temperature so far was 10 degrees at Lady Grey in Free State province, south of Johannesburg.

For many, it was the first snow of their lives.

In Kroonstad, 150 miles south of Pretoria, more than two inches of snow fell overnight _ the first snow there since 1963, the South African Broadcasting Corp. reported. Children built snowmen in their yards.

A few dozen truck drivers and other travelers stranded by icy roads were put up overnight in town halls in Ladysmith and Harrismith, 120 miles south of Johannesburg on the edge of the Drakensberg Mountains. Some long distance bus lines suspended service.

At least two deaths were blamed on the cold, both middle-aged men found along roads in northern South Africa.

Myburgh said it was too soon to say if the cold snap or snowfall was record-setting, but it was certainly the largest snowfall since a 1981 storm.

``The trees in my garden are covered and there is very thick snow everywhere,″ Corrie Labuschagne of Harrismith told the South African Press Association. ``It looks like a picture on a Christmas card.″