IN PICS: Massive hailstorm rips through Ermelo

Ermelo and a farm just outside the town were hit hard by a devastating hailstorm, which a local farmer claims was part of a tornado, on Monday.

A hailstorm in Ermelo, Mpumalanga, left in its wake complete destruction on Monday.

Hailstones bigger than golf balls were reported throughout and outside the town, reports Highvelder.

Hail that was picked up outside the Highvelder offices.

Local car dealerships reported extensive damage to vehicles that were on display.

Leaves and branches lay scattered in some streets, and the Highvelder passed a vehicle with the back window knocked out.

Some businesses reported broken windows.

On the same day, reports of an alleged tornado ripping through a farm about 20km outside Ermelo began streaming in.

The storm caused extensive damage to houses on a farm and uprooted several trees on Lothair Road.

A local farmer, Thinus Venter, said he just managed to escape the destructive force of the storm, which he says looked like a tornado with an estimated radius of about 20 to 30 metres.

“I was waiting for some of the workers to finish planting when I noticed the wind picking up. It was followed by some lightning, skies turning to a greenish hue and hail.”

According to him, at first it seemed like a dust storm was forming because it suddenly became darker, but it soon dawned on him that he was looking at a tornado touching down.

He said he indicated to the workers that they needed to get to safety, which they managed to do just in the nick of time.

“I could feel the wind’s force and hear it howling just outside my vehicle’s door as I sped off.

“You don’t know where to go or what to do or what the tornado is capable of.”

Venter said, after it passed, it left in its wake a trail of destruction.

“Trees were uprooted and houses’ roofs at an informal settlement were ripped off and found crumpled up kilometres away.”

Local farmers in the area assisted the affected residents with canvasses to cover up the areas where their roofs used to be.

Fortunately, no injuries were reported.

Electricity to several houses on the farms was interrupted.

Although eyewitness accounts claim a tornado hit the farm outside Ermelo, there has been no confirmation of this by the South African Weather Service (SAWS). Data and weather warnings from Monday indicate that it was a hailstorm, and not a tornado.

Attempts to contact SAWS have so far been unsuccessful.

Additional reporting by Nica Schreuder

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