A fierce multi-cell storm that ripped through parts of the Eastern Cape resulted in a serious tornado in the area.
The South African Weather Service (SAWS) on Thursday issued a media statement confirming its classification of the tornado as EF3 – described on the Enhanced Fujita scale as one which poses a serious risk to life and infrastructure.
The tornado hit in the early evening hours of Tuesday.
A severe thunderstorm alert was issued by SAWS for the eastern half of the Eastern Cape and most of KwaZulu-Natal.
After a warm day, thunderclouds developed on Tuesday afternoon in the Eastern Cape, and an hour later, formed “relatively strong thunderstorms”, known as multiple storms.
Two storms many kilometres apart moved through the province, and were boosted by “at least two overshooting tops”, which the SAWS said indicated “an imminent severe thunderstorm”.
The storms travelled almost 280km in the next three hours, and were joined by a “secondary merger”, which further strengthened the storm.
After changing direction and very high winds from the multi-cell storm, a tornado formed, and damaged homes, vehicles and the nearby airport. Trees were also uprooted, and localised flooding occurred.
In another instance, roof sheeting had been torn off on two houses in opposite directions, which SAWS said meant the clockwise spin due to the tornadic vortex tube damaged the property.
There were also areas near where the tornado hit that were not damaged at all, which SAWS said was typical of storm damage after a tornado, and that strong winds not formed in a straight line as with tornados means “more uniform damage to all structures over a wide area”.
What to do in the event of a tornado:
- Move to a designated building. If there isn’t one, move to the centre of your home and take shelter under a strong piece of furniture, such as a table;
- Get out of any vehicles, as they can be moved, overturned and destroyed by strong winds and flying debris;
- Stay away from windows. SAWS said flying glass and debris cause the most deaths when tornados take place;
- Do not try to outrun the tornado in your car. Rather abandon your vehicle and take cover;
- If you are outside, lie flat in a ditch. But be wary of any flooding if there is heavy rain;
- Try to gather your pets and animals inside when you see a thunderstorm approaching.
Compiled by Nica Richards