Twister tears across island

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The Independent Online

Cars and houses were damaged by a tornado which hit an island town, it was revealed today.

Police said the twister struck Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis last night.

A number of cars were reportedly damaged by the tornado when it hit the island.

A family said their camper van was nearly overturned by the tornado, and one of the children was thrown from their bunk.

Mother Cathie Cassie, from Leicestershire, told BBC Scotland: "The van started to shake, almost like you were in an earthquake and then it tipped sideways.

"We were very lucky. We were physically shaken but our kids were all right."

According to reports, one car was flipped upside down by the storm, narrowly missing the fuel depot near the ferry terminal.

Slates, ridging and iron-work were also said to have been ripped off some houses, and lightning caused power to be lost across the town.

A Northern Constabulary spokesman said: "There was a tornado in Stornoway last night.

"No further details are available at the moment."

The tornado hit the town shortly after 10pm after coming across the harbour, Stornoway Coastguard said.

A spokesman said no one was reported injured as a result of the storm.

There was "some damage" to property and Stornoway was left without power for half an hour, the spokesman said.

"A couple of cars were damaged, and there were some broken fences, but thankfully no one was hurt," he said.

Witnesses spoke of hearing thunder and lightning around the time of the storm.

An employee at the Cabarfeidh Hotel in Stornoway, who did not want to be named, said windows were smashed by the force of the storm and a car was overturned.

She said: "I didn't see the tornado itself but I saw the damage it did.

"There were all sorts of things that had been blown into the road. I saw smashed windows on buildings by the harbour and a car had been overturned."

Another hotel employee said she heard thunder and lightning shortly before the power was lost.

Tornados at sea are "rather unusual" during the summer months, a spokesman for MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said.

Normally, the cold pockets of air and storms needed to create the conditions for a tornado to form off-land do not occur until later in the year.

"While it is not unusual to get tornados in the UK, you would usually expect them in the autumn. At this time of year, you would expect to get them inland," the MeteoGroup spokesman said.

There are usually around 50 incidents of tornados in the UK every year, the MeteoGroup spokesman said.

The spokesman likened the tornado phenomenon to "water going down a plughole".

They are formed by vacuums created between clouds as they rise and fall in the atmosphere during a thunderstorm.

Air moving between the clouds creates a vortex - a rapidly moving column of air that rotates downwards.

As the tornado grows, the air is stretched out further, increasing the size and strength of the twister.