The South African Weather Service issued a weather warning earlier this week for the eastern half of the Eastern Cape and most of KwaZulu-Natal.
The warning was for ‘severe thunderstorms’. However, what hit the area on Tuesday was a number of ‘multicell storms’ that moved throughout the Eastern Cape and resulted in what has now been called an EF3 (Enhanced Fujita scale) tornado.
“The multicell thunderstorms travelled to the east on Tuesday, and within three hours travelled almost 280 km from Graaf-Reinet to Bofolo (nearly half-way from Queenstown to Mthatha), while an intensifying storm (located south of Burgersdorp) moved for about 78 km to the south-east.”
A number of storms converged together in the area of Mthatha around 17h00 on Tuesday, with the resulting destruction and downpours leading the weather service to suggest that the area had been hit by an EF3 tornado.
“The storm is rated as an EF2 to EF3 tornado because of the supporting damage,” said the service.
Torn-off roofing sheets, peeling of roofs at the corners over a relatively large area as well as photographic evidence of a vehicle which appears to have been tossed into the air by the strong winds.”
“In the image below, roof sheeting has been torn back partially on the two houses, but in opposing directions. It is evident that the clockwise spin associated with the tornadic vortex tube resulted in the damage of the property.”
“In the images above, considering that the wall was well built and now it has also collapsed, it may be deduced that some areas of EF3 scale may be evident due to the tornado’s impact. However sometimes the roof beams pull down some parts of brickwork, rather than solely the wind force on the brick wall,” said SAWS.
“There are well established spots of significant damage, while there are also nearby areas where no damage occurred at all. This type of damage is often consistent with tornadic storm damage. By contrast, non-tornadic “straight line” wind damage results in more uniform damage to all structures over a wide area.”
“In conclusion, the scale of the tornado damage is consistent with mostly EF2 to EF3 (Enhanced Fujita scale) tornado damage.”
The SAWS released the following precautions to take in the event of a tornado
- In the event of seeing a tornado, move to the pre-designated building or else move into the centre of your house and get under a strong piece of furniture, such as a table.
- Get out of vehicles, caravans and mobile homes, as they can be moved, overturned and even destroyed by the strong winds and flying debris.
- Stay away from windows, as flying glass and debris cause the most deaths.
- Do not attempt to outrun a tornado in your vehicle. Leave it immediately and seek shelter.
- If caught outside in the open, lie flat in a ditch or depression but beware of flooding if there is heavy rain
Document compiled by: Puseletso Mofokeng, Lehlohonolo Thobela, Lulama Pheme and Garth Sampson and Kevin Rae.