Mini-tornado damages thirty homes in Lancashire village

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Residents of a Lancashire village spent yesterday clearing up their neighbourhood after a small tornado struck.

Residents of a Lancashire village spent yesterday clearing up their neighbourhood after a small tornado struck.

Police and fire services were drafted in to help locals after the freak weather knocked trees, damaged roofs and demolished chimney-stacks on 30 homes.

Eyewitnesses also reported seeing a trampoline flying and a garden shed being blown down the road.

The tornado hit the Methuen Avenue estate in the village of Hoghton, near Preston, at around 7pm on Monday, taking both local residents and weather forecasters by surprise.

It swept from north to south through the village at around 90mph in around 10 minutes and was no more than a few metres wide.

Although no one was hurt, the tornado is expected to cost hundreds of thousands of pounds in insurance claims, ranging from major structural repairs to cars needing to be re-sprayed.

Locals described the moment when the freak weather arrived: "We were watching some nonsense on the Discovery Channel and it started raining," said James Holden, an IT worker who was at home with his wife Cathy and their son Harry, aged four months. "It started building up and it looked like hailstones and got louder and louder, smashing against the windows. We saw debris flying past and then a garage roof flew by. It was frightening because it was loud.When you saw things fly through the window, you realised it was more than a hailstorm."

Loreen Fawcett, a Hoghton resident, said: "It was like a war zone. It was unbelievable."

According to the Meteorological Office, between 30 and 50 tornadoes strike each year in Britain but many go unreported as they occur in unpopulated areas. They strike mostly inland, typically in the Midlands and East Anglia.

Tornadoes in the UK are little more than a mild breeze compared with those in America, especially in the Mid-West, which can travel at speeds up to 300mph, devastating communities and claiming many lives.

Although meteorologists know that a tornado is caused by a combination of warm, moist and unstable air, they say that they are almost impossible to forecast.

Andy Yeatman, a spokes-man for the Meteorological Office, said: "Although they are spawned by thunderstorms, the cause is not easy to understand. They are thought to be something to do with more wind at the top of the cloud than at the bottom which makes it likely for the cloud to tip."

A Leading Firefighter with the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, Martin Ball, who was first on the scene, said: "We had trees falling on to properties, chimney stacks collapsing and garage roofs ripped off. It was lucky that no one was hurt, given the amount of damage."