Tornadoes leave trail of destruction across Britain

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The Independent Online

Tornadoes wreaked havoc across the country yesterday, with as many as 11 separate twisters destroying homes and uprooting trees.

The worst-hit areas included Nuneaton in Warwickshire, where more than 30 homes were damaged, and Farnborough in Hampshire, where at least 20 houses were affected. But the trail of destruction did not end there; tornadoes also ripped through Luton, Northampton and Eye in Cambridgeshire. In Breasdon, Derbyshire, part of a factory roof was torn off by the wind.

According to the Tornado and Storm Research Organisation (Torro), the violent weather was caused by the meeting of two extreme winds, one warm and one cold. The organisation said that up to 11 tornadoes occurred when a squall line ripped through the Midlands and southern parts of the country early in the morning, with gusts of up to 80mph.

Terry Parrott, from Farnborough, saw the twister approaching his house. "At about 7.30, I was getting ready to get in the shower and I heard this tremendous rushing noise – the winds were just getting stronger and stronger," he said.

"I looked out of my bedroom window and saw this huge whirling thing come through between the two houses and it lifted the garage roofs up.

"It just picked everythingup, even stuff that was nailed down. It was incredible, then after 90 seconds it was gone, it was all over".

Hayley Stroud, 27, also from Farnborough said the noise from the twister was so loud that her son was screaming in fear. "It was like something out of The Wizard of Oz", she said.

John Hammond, a meteorologist at the Met Office, said: "It's certainly been an eventful morning, with some very disturbed weather. The conditions were in place for tornadoes, as a band of warm air in the east met with cooler air in the west".

John Edwards, director of community and environment for Rushmoor council, said the residents of Farnborough were "petrified" as high winds tore through their streets, uprooting a bus shelter and overturning a caravan. Mr Edwards said it was fortunate the tornado hit so early in the morning, as a few minutes later there would have been children on the streets making their way to school.

In Nuneaton, witnesses spoke of a terrific noise as roof tiles and chimneys went flying under the tornado's path. Yvette Mawson, 40, described how her children's trampoline had flown across the garden. "I could hear bangs, glass smashing and car alarms going off ... it was unbelievable".

Terence Meaden, of Torro, said there were likely to have been more tornadoes than reported and that such weather patterns were "uncommon". On average, he said, there were about 70 tornadoes a year in Britain.

UK extremes

* Birmingham tornado

Some 120 people had to be evacuated on 28 July 2005, when a twister ripped through the south of the city, injuring 19 people.

* Kensal Rise tornado

The strongest tornado to affect London in more than half a century hit Kensal Rise on 7 December last year, with winds reaching speeds as high as 130 miles an hour.

* Manchester earthquakes

In August the city had six separate earthquakes in a month.

* Scorching spring

This April was the hottest in Britain since records began almost two centuries ago.

* Summer floods

Substantial parts of England were submerged and the skies remained an almost unrelenting shade of grey this summer – the wettest since records began.