Storms in South Africa are going to become more severe, an analyst at the South African Weather Service has warned. And while residents in Mamelodi, Soweto, were mopping up water and clearing up the damage to their houses this week, weather man Mnikeli Ndabambi warned that people in low-lying areas could expect more flooding.

Recently Gautengers had a taste of what Pretoria and Johannesburg might look like during a weather apocalypse. Fearing that a tornado was imminent, panicked residents blocked the province's roads trying to get home. But even though the tornado rumour turned out to be a hoax, extreme weather remains a certainty.

"This year alone South Africa has seen many weather records tumbling," Ndabambi said, pointing out that all over the planet changes are taking place because of global warming.

"South Africa will have to learn to cope with these extreme weather conditions," he said. "They are not going to stop."

Floods are becoming heavier and they will be a major problem in informal settlements, he said.

Climate experts Alex Weaver and Arthur Chapman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have warned that there will be "an increase in severe storms, such as those associated with cut-off low-pressure systems".

"This will lead to more frequent flooding and consequent damage to farmlands, infrastructure and inhabitants of flood-prone areas," the two scientists said.

The weather service is concerned that the velocity of hailstorms on the Highveld could increase, Ndabambi said, and it has detected much stronger and more damaging winds during the traditional thunderstorms that Gauteng is famous for.

Last Saturday a man died in Lenasia when a tree uprooted by powerful winds fell on him.

The storms also caused power failures and infrastructural damage in the south and west of Johannesburg. Several uprooted trees blocked the N12 highway.

In addition, snowfalls in South Africa are increasing, said Ndabambi. Johannesburg had its first snowfall since 1981 and the weather man said that for the first time this winter snow had fallen as far north as Giyani in Limpopo. People up north are not used to the plummeting temperatures, exposing them to the dangers of hypothermia.

In August the United Nations Weather Agency said that many parts of the world have experienced record extreme weather conditions since the beginning of the year, including unusual floods, heatwaves, storms and cold snaps.

And the global land-surface temperatures in January and April reached the highest levels recorded for those months, the UN's World Meteorological Organisation said.

Extreme weather events include exceptionally heavy monsoon rains and floods in South Asia and severe flooding in Britain, which had its wettest May to July on record.

Africa has had a particularly severe flooding season, affecting 22 countries including Ethiopia, Niger, Uganda and Sudan.

Torrential rains uprooted the lives of more than 1,5-million people on the continent.

In south-eastern Europe a summer heatwave was one of the hottest on record, while heavy rain devastated southern China in June. Cyclone Gonu, the first documented tropical cyclone in the Arabian Sea, hit Oman and Iran in June, resulting in 50 deaths.

Three years of floods in Africa

2004 and 2005: In Kenya floods rendered 80 000 people homeless. There were livestock deaths, property was destroyed and thousands of hectares of farmland containing mostly maize were ruined.

In Ethiopia hundreds of people from Somaliland lost their lives. Many survivors lost their homes and other property.

In Mozambique 21 people were killed, 35 000 left homeless and many died because of the increase in diseases such as malaria and cholera.

2007: In Uganda houses and latrines collapsed and crops were damaged, leading to food insecurity. People were washed away, waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea, upper respiratory diseases, gastroenteritis and malaria were rife. Overall 300 000 people were affected.

2007: In Sudan the Upper Nile region saw about 365 000 people affected by heavy flooding.

2007: In Mozambique Cyclone Favio and associated floods killed 45 people and 170 000 people were displaced. -- Nosimilo Ndlovu