Tornadoes in Joburg this weekend?

This morning I received an e-mail claiming that gale force winds and tornadoes would hit Johannesburg this weekend and that these would be accompanied by massive winds. Here is the e-mail in its entirety:

BREAKING NEWS Gail force winds of up to 300km are expected for the Johannesburg region during the course of the weekend. This bad weather that is approaching will reach Johannesburg region later this afternoon approaching from the west rand and heading towards the east rand with possibilities of stronger tornado’s experienced last weekend. Please make sure that you get home early as the roads are going to be chaotic due to the weather. Please make sure you and your loved ones are in doors when the wind starts to pick up, please make sure that pets are indoors as well.

Please see the photo attached from HAARP weather institute.







This is obviously a hoax. The red flags are so bright and hoisted so high that I’m getting a headache from the sudden change in colour of my horizon (I like blue skies).

When ever you receive an e-mail like this, keep your eyes peeled for the following dead give-aways:

1. Grammar worse than a 6 year old. Serious weather warnings are not issued by people who don’t know how to string a sentence together properly. It is extremely important that a weather warning not cause confusion and it has to be properly written. Phrases like “This bad weather that is approaching will reach Johannesburg region” should immediately trigger your bullshit detector.

2. Critical factual errors are another major red flag. If you were to represent wind speed in metric units, you would say km/h (kilometres per hour), not just km. And a hurricane with a wind speed over 250km/h would be a category 5 hurricane! When last did we have one of those in Joburg? Never!

An enormous weather system, such as the one depicted in the image included in the e-mail, is actually a hurricane, not a tornado, and can not form over the West Rand of Gauteng. They need water, enormous open stretches of it combined with strong winds and the absence of  geography. That is not what the West Rand is. It has the Magalies mountains, for a start.

Finally, HAARP, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program does not have a weather satellite and is not a weather institute.

3. Precautions that will not help you. If you are in the path of a hurricane like the one depicted, you will not be safe inside your house with the doors and windows closed. You will need to be in a hurricane shelter, preferably underground.

4. Do Not Panic! If an e-mail like this is scary, and encourages you to tell everyone you know, pass it along to friends, or go home early, Don’t. Rather check the WeatherSA website for the truth (or otherwise) of the warning and take suitable precautions.

In summary, this e-mail is obviously a hoax – the picture is taken from the Space Shuttle of a large hurricane over the Atlantic ocean. There is NO indication that this “warning” comes from any official weather agency, it’s just some moron with nothing better to do than try and spread panic. They didn’t even sign their name.

When you receive e-mails like this, don’t send them on, just Press Delete.


32 responses to “Tornadoes in Joburg this weekend?

  1. “possibilities of stronger tornado’s experienced last weekend.” WOW bit of a temporal spin on this one! hey if your house lands on any women in black with candy-cane stockings and red glittery shoes, remember you can save yourself a LOT of hassle by just clicking your heels together and repeating “there’s no place like home” from the beginning instead of mucking about with flying monkey men and stuff.

  2. Hey, just saying, I was there, there was a tornado, but we get them yearly, its not uncommon just unheard of, OK, that picture and email was obviously just to stir some people up, but do some research, you’ll find that we usually have them but it only makes news when it gets nearby any cities or towns.

  3. There is always chain messages going around like this all on the internet, facebook especially, and now on bbm. Just found your blog- glad to see a fellow South African all up on the web 🙂 Look forward to more posts.

    • Thanks Rochelle 🙂

      You should check out my Science & Skepticism podcast: Consilience

  4. i just got this email but it staes western cape region during the course of the weekend, it kinda looked real cos, on SABC weather tonight there’s a mention of some activity coming in to CPT.. i must admit i was half listenng and just kept my eye on the tv to check what the tmeperatures will be for tomoro.

  5. Firstly there are no such things as “gail” force winds. They are called gale force. Wind speeds of 300 km’h are only recorded in serious tornadoes. Thirdly the included photograph is a typical satellite photo of a tropical cyclone. And it was taken in the NORTHERN hemisphere — the wind circulates in an anti-clockwise direction around the low-pressure centre.
    If you know nothing about Geography, please don’t make a fool of yourself.

    • Did you read the article Bossie? Did you notice that I was also debunking the hoax?
      Read it again.

      One point about the anti-clockwise winds though, even a simple photo editing program can rotate an image so that it looks like a mirror image of itself, so you could present the storm in the above image as either clockwise or anti-clockwise with the press of a button.

  6. What is this k@k?
    Why do humans always need something to worry about? Jesus fucking fuck! Life is tough enough. We are always working, always stressing. FFS man. Can we just grow a fucking brain and make things BETTER FOR OURSELVES?
    Stop the bullshit man!

  7. Thanks for this. We were looking on the SA Weather website and could not find anything. I even emailed them on the address on the website – they are yet to reply, but I am sure their answer will be along your lines.

  8. Thanks for making hundreds of people panic you Pathetic Creature. Have you nothing better to do than cause chaos – Are you Bored? Or plain Stupid!!!! Perhaps go offer your services doing street cleaning or community service or perhaps Jump of the nearest building!!!!
    Not a joke!!! Perhaps you dont have children to worry about you idiot!!!

  9. Hi
    Thank you
    I received the “Breaking News” early this afternoon, and almost sent everyone home… (Feeling a bit stupid now) Even though my bullshit detector is a bit rusty, I typed a few key words for Google to search, and found this blog. After feeling like the village idiot… I assured everyone who received the mail that it is a hoax and we will be working till 18:00. Thanks have been reading up on a few other emails as well.

  10. thanks for this, i hope he idiot that sent this out get run over by a tornado, quite frankly i think he just caused quite a choas on the roads really….

    great work keep it up


    • Well, I’d rather not wish personal harm on some body. But I do think the internet should ban him from the tubes.

  11. We panicked & then calmed down before sending to anyone, checked with the SA weather bureau & realized what utter garbage… People not realize what chaos this can cause….terribly sick, I say, we have enough to worry about as it is. This was just pathetic!

  12. Trust Ang to let me know the real truth…. when I received this mail I actually thought “what would Ang say”… and then googled and yours was the first blog to pop up! Love Kel (ex EOS)

    • Hey Kel!
      Wow, stranger, long time no see. I am very glad that my tenacious skepticism has helped you once again 🙂


  13. thanks for this. I did a silly thing and forwarded and then decided to check it out… Well now I just spammed my family’s mail!

    anyway, what about that Toilet in the mall story that keeps making its rounds – I’ll try and find that email – have you heard about those and do you think it’s true ?

    • Well, please try and send the link to this page to everyone you sent the hoax to, that way the recipients will have the correct information as well.

      I have heard something about toilets in malls, if you find that one, send it along and I will give it the skeptical treatment. My e-mail address is skepticdetective @ gmail . com (without the spaces).

      • Thank you for the posting, I normally check with the internet first before forwarding news like this it is just a pity some people has nothing better to do than to cause havoc.

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