2 tornados confirmed by SAWS, relief efforts underway in KZN and EC

Communities are rallying in KZN and the Eastern Cape to assist those affected by this week’s severe weather and flooding.

The South African Weather Service (SAWS) has confirmed that at least two tornados were observed in KZN on Monday afternoon.

In a media statement issued yesterday, SAWS said a large weather system, namely a cut-off low, affected large parts of the country since the weekend and was responsible for the heavy rainfall and significant flooding over parts of the Eastern Cape.

This system moved over the western and central interior of the country on Monday, resulting in cold air that invaded the central and western interior. The eastern parts of the country, particularly KZN, experienced warm and moist conditions.

Later on Monday, the atmosphere became unstable when the cold and warm air masses met, resulting in a line of thunderstorm development over the western parts of KZN.

Severe thunderstorms developed within this line, causing strong to damaging winds, small to large hail in places, heavy rainfall and at least two observed tornadoes.

This line of storms continued to move east over the province in the afternoon, while exiting and moving offshore during the evening.

The first tornado occurred between Newcastle and Utrecht over the western interior of KZN early in the afternoon and initial investigations indicate that it started off as a rope tornado, which developed into a cone tornado, said SAWS.

Rope and cone tornadoes get their names from their shapes. These tornadoes are generally narrower, closer to the ground and wider at the base of the cloud.

A larger tornado developed later in the afternoon around Tongaat, and moved east to the coast near Westbrook and Ballito, where it caused significant damage. This tornado was stronger and larger (wedge-like).

“Wedge tornadoes are usually larger and wider from the surface to the cloud base, or, in other words, they are wider than they are tall. Wedge/wide tornadoes are often (but not always) categorised as strong tornadoes.

“South Africa does get tornadoes from time to time, particularly when large and intense weather systems affect the country,” said SAWS.

Following media questions about whether these occurrences can be associated with climate change, SAWS said it is safe to say that, although a singular weather event cannot be directly correlated to climate change, climatologists agree that these types of weather systems ‘may become more frequent and intense in the future due to a warming climate’.

“The tornadoes’ strength, damage and impacts will be further investigated, and findings will be released upon the completion of the post-severe weather report,” said SAWS.

Relief efforts underway after Tongaat tornado

With seven Tongaat residents reported dead after Monday’s devastating storm, Magwaveni grandmother Busaphi Ndzabe is counting her blessings.

Feeling helpless and fearful as the tornado-fuelled winds began dismantling her house, the 79-year-old gogo and her daughter Nonhlanhla desperately collected cushions and used their bodies to shield Ndzabe’s grandchildren from the storm.

Magwaveni grandmother Busaphi Ndzabe with her daughter Nonhlanhla and one of her grandchildren. Photo: North Coast Courier.

The family of six miraculously escaped injury despite their home being one of hundreds severely damaged, reported the North Coast Courier.

Magwaveni was one of the areas that was hit hard by the tornado. Photo: Ethekwini Municipality.


Seatides Combines School was one of the worst affected schools. Photo: North Coast Courier.

According to an article published by the Zululand Observer, affected citizens are picking up the pieces of the short-lived yet destructive event, and churches and community outreach organisations have started food, blanket and clothing drives.

Zululand Observer spoke to University of Zululand lecturer and meteorologist Nkosinathi Xulu, who explained tornados and the atmospheric requirements needed for one to form.

“Tornadoes are low-scale weather systems that occur in environments that need to have unstable convection or atmospheric instability, thunderstorm occurrence and vortex (this gives its spin).

“These systems are very rare and are an extension of a thunderstorm on the surface/ground. They require a vortex that allows for their rotation in either direction (as there is no effect of the Coriolis Force).

“Since they are low-scale weather systems, they tend to last for a couple of minutes.”

Xulu said in this case, the cut-off low weather system occurred high up in the atmosphere (aloft), which caused havoc in the Eastern Cape. It moved and reached KZN, creating an ‘unstable environment and fulfilling all the conditions required for the occurrence of a tornado’.

“Unfortunately, when they occur, their devastation can be massive and detrimental,” said Xulu.

Communities rally on KZN’s North Coast

According to an article published by North Coast Courier, donation centres have been set up across the North Coast.

Gift of the Givers, local NPOs, and community members have extended a helping hand to more than 1 000 affected families.

Yesterday, Gift of the Givers visited the hardest hit areas and provided essentials for families whose belongings have been washed away or buried in rubble.

“Food parcels, school uniforms and stationery will be provided where the need arises; building material will be considered; as well as repairs to damaged school infrastructure,” the organisation said.

Another NPO, The Rise Up movement, also answered the call for help and visited Magwaveni to provide essentials, such as blankets and nappies.

Electricity outages in the Eastern Cape

This morning, the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality said frequent electricity outages are happening due to the persistent rains and associated ongoing faults and damage to infrastructure.

“We are committed to resolving these challenges and continue to monitor and work day and night to restore power.”

Yesterday, Eastern Cape Premier Lubabalo Oscar Mabuyane, MEC for Social Development Bukiwe Fanta, MEC for Human Settlements Siphokazi Lusithi, and various other government representatives attended a preliminary incident report meeting on the floods and visited affected areas.

Mabuyane reassured the community that they are devising a plan to assist the community and are looking for a temporary, safer site for displaced community members.

The team visited Matanzima Bridge in KwaNobuhle, VW SA, Kariega Fire Station and two evacuation halls that house 139 and 400 people respectively. It’s estimated that another 400 people will still go to the evacuation halls.

Watch: Site visit to the Kariega Fire Station:

Watch: Flood damage at VW SA:


SAWS has again issued severe weather outlooks for today, and provided a weather outlook until Friday:


Other storm damage:

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