The public must guard against a heatwave from today until March 12, with temperatures rising as high as 41 degrees, although some isolated thundershowers are expected this week, the Meteorological Services Department warned yesterday.

In a statement, the Met Department urged people to stay hydrated as the heatwave across the country could cause health-related complications, including sudden death for vulnerable citizens.

Very hot to extremely hot temperatures in the range of 36 degrees to 41 degrees Celsius are expected as the result of persistent northerly air mass.

“These extremely hot conditions are caused by a combination of factors, such as the persistent northerly air mass or wind flow that originates from the low-pressure system at the surface of the atmosphere and a high-pressure system at upper levels with a strong subsiding motion that prevents the heat energy from escaping into the outer atmosphere,” said the department.

“In addition to these uncomfortably and unbearably hot conditions, thundershowers are expected to occur over some areas of the country.”

The Met Department advised people to drink more water or any hydrating fluids, avoid prolonged stays under the sun, stay in the shade and wear wide-brimmed hats or use umbrellas.

The department said it would keep monitoring the significant increase in temperatures and update the public.

Light-isolated thundershowers were experienced yesterday in the northern parts of Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central and the northern districts of Mashonaland East under partly cloudy and hot conditions due to the continued moisture influx from the north.

“Mashonaland West, northern parts of Midlands and Harare Metropolitan Provinces also received some very light afternoon showers under partly cloudy to cloudy conditions with warm to hot temperatures,” said the department.

“Matabeleland North, Mashonaland West and Bulawayo Metropolitan started mostly sunny and mild in the morning becoming partly cloudy and hot in the afternoon.”

Scattered thundershowers were expected this week in all Mashonaland Provinces, Harare Metropolitan and the northern parts of Manicaland Province under partly cloudy and hot afternoon conditions.

Farmers were encouraged to increase irrigation and ensure animals had proper shade and ventilation.

The showers had revived farmers’ hopes, as maize crops in some areas will recover after a prolonged dry spell which took over a month.

Mr Taurai Munangu of Banket was optimistic that the rains would improve tobacco crop which was also threatened by moisture stress.

“The situation is worrying in most parts of the country. In some areas, the crops are now a write-off and cannot recover even if we get the rains soon,” he said.

Traditional grains such as sorghum and millet can withstand moisture stress for prolonged periods.