As both Gauteng and and KwaZulu-Natal have documented experiences with tornadoes, it begs the question - is the Western Cape next? File Picture: Matt Detrich/AP Photo

Cape Town - Given the two tornadoes that have ripped through KwaZulu-Natal this week, and Gauteng's own history with tornadoes, it would be logical to ask: is the Western Cape next?

According to reports among 17 tornadoes have ripped across parts of South Africa in the last decade.

Another tornado hit KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday just two days after one ripped through a farming community of New Hanover in the KZN Midlands on Tuesday, killing two people and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

In New Hanover, just outside Pietermaritzburg, residents were left reeling after a tornado ripped through the area. 

Several people have died, river banks have swollen and washed people away and left countless homes destroyed.

Back in 2017, a tornado caused massive damage at Vaal Marina near the Vaal Dam in Gauteng experienced.

"Tornadoes only develop out of severe thunderstorms. However not all severe thunderstorms produce tornadoes only a small percentage do," said Kate Turner, Senior forecaster at the Cape Town Weather office.

"Severe thunderstorms are classified with any of the following: excessive amounts of small hail; large hailstones; extreme winds; intense downpours that result in flash flooding; or lastly the presence of a tornado.

"As the central and eastern parts of the country receive most of their rainfall from thunderstorms, this area carries the risk of tornadoes developing. Although South Africa does experience a number of tornadoes each year over the central and eastern parts of the country, they often are not long lived and low on the intensity scale," Turner said.

Turned added that Cape Town does get thunderstorms but this in itself is infrequent, and for these thunderstorms to become severe "is even less likely and very unlikely that a tornado will develop".

"In saying this, there has only been one record of a tornado in Cape Town in 1999 and never since."

SA Weather Service forecaster Tokelo Chiloane also said that the lifespan of a tornado was between three to five minutes, adding that South African tornadoes differed from tornadoes that occurred in countries like the US, where they could last for hours.

This was because the dynamics in South Africa and the southern hemisphere were different to those of the northern hemisphere. One of the conditions that differed was the wind direction.

In the northern hemisphere, the wind direction in tornadoes was anti-clockwise, while in the southern hemisphere it was clockwise.

* Additional reporting by Mphathi Nxumalo.


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