DISASTERS-What to do

natural disaster is a sudden event that causes widespread destruction, major collateral damage or loss of life, brought about by forces other than the acts of human beings. 
Know what to do and not to do during natural disasters to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.  - Information supplied by SAWS

Thunder storms

Any thunderstorm can produce lightning, flash flooding, very strong winds, hail and in some cases tornadoes.


  • If outdoors DO NOT seek shelter under trees
  • Listen to the radio or TV for warnings.
  • If possible stay indoors well clear of windows
  • Shelter pets and cover vehicles
  • Disconnect all electrical appliances.
  • Do not take a showers or bath or use the telephone
  • If driving, STOP and park well off the road clear of trees, power lines and streams. 


Lightning occurs with every thunderstorm and must be expected as soon as thunderstorms form.

Determine the danger: 

  • If you are outdoors when you hear a thunderstorm coming seek safe shelter immediately!
  • If your hair stands on end, leave the area as fast as possible, as lightning will almost certainly strike that spot shortly.
  • When you see the lightning FLASH count the seconds to where you hear the BANG
  • At 30 seconds - suspend all outdoor activities and seek safe shelter as lightning strikes are close
  • If you count 15 seconds or less, a lightning strike could occur where you are.


  • Unsafe areas during an electric storm are:
    • Tall structures such as trees, telephone and power lines
    • Hilltops
    • Isolated sheds
    • Open water
    • Unprotected gazebos or picnic shelters
  • Avoid being near:
    • Metal objects such as fences, golf carts, bicycles, and motorcycles, telephone or power lines and steel structures such as pylons and windmills.
  • If indoors, during a storm and stay well clear of windows. Do not:
    • Hold any metal object
    • Use any electrical appliance
    • Use the telephone,
    • Take a bath or shower.
  • If you are travelling, stay in the vehicle.
  • Do not swim during a thunderstorm.

 Did you know?

The Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal, especially the former Transkei region, have the highest incidence of lightning related deaths in South Africa. Thus take extra special care when in these areas. If you are outdoors when you hear a thunderstorm coming seek safe shelter immediately!


Flooding occurs when water overflows its normal channels such as streams and storm water drains. It can occur with prolonged period of rain, with continuous heavy falls or in the form of flash floods which are usually associated with severe thunderstorms.


  • If at all possible stay indoors and off the roads
  • Listen to the special warnings on the radio and TV.
  • Avoid crossing rivers and swollen streams where water is above your ankles.
  • Move to higher ground when flooding is possible.
  • If trapped in flooding in a vehicle, abandon it and climb to higher ground.
  • In buildings, move valuables to a safe place above the expected flood level.
  • Switch off electricity at the supply point to the building.
  • In rural areas protect/relocate animals to a safe place on higher ground.
  • Abandon your home immediately if evacuation is recommended, before access is cut off by flood water.
  • NEVER drive on a road covered by water. You do not know how deep it is or if the road has been washed away.
  • If the vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it's harder to recognize flood dangers


Did you know?

Just fifteen centimeters of fast-moving flood water can knock you off your feet, and a depth of two feet will float your car! NEVER try to walk, swim or drive through such swift water. STOP! Turn around and go another way.


Gale force often occur along coastal regions, but also often occur during thunderstorm activity in various forms. These winds are sudden and can cause much damage, especially if they are as a result of a tornado.


  • Stay indoors where possible away from the windows that open towards the severe winds.
  • Listen to the radio or TV for warnings.
  • If travelling in a vehicle be aware of sudden cross winds, especially between building.
  • Be aware of the possibility of fallen trees or power lines and flying debris.
  • Small boats must stay away from the sea and seek the shelter of a harbour, river estuary or protected bay.

Did you know?

Exotic trees are easily uprooted by strong winds, especially after prolonged periods of rain. Indigenous trees to your region are recommended.

Cold and Snow

High wind chill, snowfall, freezing rain, and cold temperatures all pose a hazard to those travelling or venturing outside and one should dress to suit the weather


  • Stay indoors where possible.
  • Listen to the radio or TV for warnings.
  • If venturing outdoors dress warmly.
  • If it is extremely cold, cover your mouth to protect your lungs from the cold air.
  • Don't drink alcohol, consume caffeinated drinks or smoke when out in the extreme cold. All of these activities encourage
    hypothermia and frostbite.
  • Protect small stock from the cold in sheds. 


The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can avoid it and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination.


  • Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
  • Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.
  • Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
  • Keep your lights and windshield clean.
  • Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
  • Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently travelled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures
    above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.
  • Don't assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on
    icy roads.

Did you know?

Numerous vehicles are regularly stuck in mountain passes because they don’t heed weather warnings that are broadcast on radio and TV.


Whenever there are prolonged periods of little and no rain coupled with warm dry winds, veldt fires can easily be sparked and will spread rapidly.


  • Listen to the radio or TV for warnings.
  • Don’t make fires in the open.
  • Don’t throw cigarette butts out of cars or in open veldt.
  • Don’t throw bottles in the veldt as they can start fires.
  • Report any fires immediately.
  • Prepare and maintain fire breaks in controlled manner.
  • Do not leave braai and campfires unattended. 

Did you know? 

  • Veldt fires occur more often in winter over our interior.
  • Berg winds are the fuel for veldt fires.
  • When a fire warning is issued by the SAWS it is illegal to make outdoor fires.
  • Remember SAWS is the only provider of weather related warnings 

Thick or dense fog can reduce the visibility to such a great extent resulting in disruptions to traffic and accidents.


  • Stay off roads if possible.
  • Listen to the radio or TV for warnings.
  • When driving in fog, reduce your speed and turn on your headlights. NOT on bright.
  • Make sure that you can be seen.
  • Don't stop in the middle of a roadway.
  • Use the left edge of the road as a guide rather than the center line, to avoid running into oncoming traffic or becoming distracted by their headlights.
  • Always use your demister and windscreen wipers in foggy conditions to keep the windows clear.
  • Keep an eye on your speedometer and maintain a slow, constant speed.
  • Remember that other drivers have a limited sight distance and that fog can leave roadways slick. Signal early, and when you use your brakes, don't stomp on them.

Did you know?

Fog and lights can cause optical illusions which can cause accidents. Studies show that people are attracted to flashing lights which can lead to accidents. So avoid using emergency flashers unless completely necessary.


A tornado is a violently rotating storm of small diameter and is the most ferocious of all weather events.


  • 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.

 Did you know?

Nelson Mandela himself was witness to a tornado in Mthatha in December 1998 and had to take shelter in a chemist shop. The former Transkei and Kwazulu-Natal are prone to tornado activity.

Weather SA


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