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Possible Tornado Event in Ficksburg

A storm in the Free State on Sunday 2 October 2011 was the focus of media attention as it tore through an informal settlement injuring 42 people and killing a 9 year old boy, when a wall reportedly collapsed on top of him. The media has seemed fairly certain that it was a tornado, but given that this is their attitude with every severe wind event, I am not sold on it yet and will wait for more information of the event to surface before claiming that it was a definite tornado, though from the images available it does appear to be very possible.

The potential for severe thunderstorms was already the topic of conversation on the Stormchasing S.A forums on Wednesday, and the South African Weather Service later issues warnings for severe thunderstorms to occur through parts of the north-east of South Africa.

The number of houses destroyed by the tornado was originally said to be in excess of 1000, but was later recalled and the number was apparently closer to 100. Each year several tornadoes occur in South Africa, but most of these tornadoes occur in open fields and have little to no impact on human life. As we head into the storm season, these severe thunderstorms with the chances of potential tornadoes will increase, that is not to say that there will be anything worse than what occurred in Ficksburg, but the existence of tornadoes in South Africa are far from just myths.

The media holds very little credibility when it comes to severe weather, and in most cases fail to get expert opinion on the incident and instead opt for sensationalist stories, labeling every violent wind event as a tornado, or every strong cold front as a hurricane – both extremely inaccurate and ignorant statements. With that said, I was impressed by an article written by news-giant News24, stating that they were unable to confirm if it was a tornado.

More news will likely come in over the upcoming days with more eye-witness accounts, which should make the identification of the event easier.

The thread on the system can be found: HERE

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