A very scary experience – part 1

by | Jan 30, 2018 | Uncategorised | 0 comments

On Monday 11th December I was driving back from Joburg after delivering a workshop for a Social Entrepreneurship client. This was my last booking for the year and I was looking forward to spending the rest of the week supporting a FinTech client in meeting their big software project delivery deadline and getting up to date on my admin tasks.
What do they say about the best laid plans?

As I drove through the village the first drops of rain were quickly followed by hail. I picked up two people who were walking with shopping bags. As we drove out to where they stay the hail stones got bigger and bigger. After dropping them I thought I was close to home but it turned out to be further than I thought. The hail was pelting the car and I saw
one hit the road in front of me that was the size of a grapefruit.

Two plots away from our Estate the wind started feeling weird and was hitting me side on. Until then I was just concerned for the damage to my car. Now I was worried for my own safety as well. Along the way I had noticed someone else sheltering in their car under a covered entrance and thought I should have joined them. I concentrated on staying on the road, getting to our Estate, through the gate and under the overhang of the building that’s just inside.

The last few hundred metres seemed an eternity. I was pushing the gate remote long before it could transmit. I stopped right next to the building thinking I would now be protected from the hail. Immediately the tree next to me fell towards the car but was partially held up by the roof. Then one behind and one in front fell. For a few minutes I had time to be grateful that the trees hadn’t crushed the car and I felt protected in a green cocoon of leaves. Then all hell broke loose with objects flying at the windshield and the roof. The windscreen eventually shattered under the bombardment and I could do nothing but huddle in my seat and ask for angelic protection.

I noticed that the door of the building right next to me had a key hanging in the lock. When the tiles stopped flying at me I grabbed my bag and car keys and jumped out the car. The wind was still so strong that it felt as though it would rip the car door off.  As I scrambled at the house door the assistant estate manager opened it, pulled me in and slammed it shut again. He and his wife were praying out loud and I sat in shock trying to breathe until the wind and noise finally abated.

When we went outside we were met by a scene of destruction straight out of the movies. Huge uprooted trees across the roads, roofs with half their tiles off, metal boat garage doors ripped off and flung away, the perimeter wall flattened, gate bent and derailed, and the entrance blocked with trees and debris.  And silence.
Our first views:


The access gate is beyond the fallen trees


At this stage I hadn’t seen that the boats at the end of these garages had been picked up and thrown into the next door property.

My Car Under Trees

If you zoom into the green square you will see my apple green car buried under and behind the fallen trees. My first thought was to get hold of my husband to stop him driving back from his meeting and meeting the tornado somewhere along the road. Fortunately, I caught him before he left.

A staff member appeared with a bleeding hand and head complaining that his leg was sore. He had been at the boat garages on the far side of the property. He spoke about how the bricks had flown at him pelting him as he ran away. As he spoke I saw the blood on his face came from a
10 cm gash in his scalp. I didn’t tell him about his head as I thought that would make him go into shock sooner. I got him seated and messaged the village to say that we needed the first aiders.

He was back at work the next day with a bandaged hand and a bandaged head. When I asked if he had a headache he said no the pain tablets worked but he wanted cream for his leg! X-rays had shown it wasn’t broken so it must be very deep bruising which I explained to him would take quite a while to feel good again.

Boat Sheds Razed To The Ground

This was all that was left of the building he had been in – just a pile of rubble. He was surprisingly lucky.

And notice how clear the sky is – just an hour and a half after spewing devastation.

The Tornado Johannesburg

This is what hit us.

Once the first aiders arrived and the ambulance was on its way I set off to walk to our house to change into more suitable clothes, get a torch and my first aid box, so I could help if we found anyone else who had been injured. I had to pick my way around fallen trees, roof tiles and sheets of metal. At one point it started raining and I tried to shelter on what used to be a covered and enclosed verandah but the Weathermaster (metal louvered) roof was gone.

As I got closer to the house I thought “oh drat I hope I have my house keys and didn’t leave them in the car”. I need not have worried as the glass from two of the sliding doors was gone. I stepped straight through the frame into another scene out of a movie.


Step Right In when the tonado came inside 

When I saw the damage inside, all the broken glass, a shard of which was embedded in one wall, objects lying two rooms away, cupboard doors pulled open and the back door sucked out, I realised that trapped in my car was probably the safest place I could have been.

Such A Mess after the Tornado

Picking up those two people walking with their shopping delayed me by about ten minutes. If I had arrived ten minutes earlier I would either have been caught in the open, taking my facilitation boxes out of the car, or in the house with the debris flying around.

The magical thing is that I never pick people up. I sometimes feel bad, but it just doesn’t feel safe. On that day after I finished the workshop I was hungry. Before going to my next appointment, I turned the car around to drive the few blocks to the local shops. As I did that I saw one of the workshop participants walking towards the corner and guessed he was also going to the shops. I offered him a lift. As we drove we were discussing how sad it is not to be able to pick people up and I thanked him that I could give him a lift. Because of that earlier experience I didn’t hesitate to pick up the couple walking with their shopping bags as the storm started. Perhaps that saved their lives and my own.

See “A very scary experience – part 2” for a photo essay of the power of nature vs man, and sadly, nature vs nature.


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