Sunday, December 10, 2006

Don't blame Global Warming for London's Tornado

Tornados in Britain can be as powerful and destructive as the infamous twisters of Tornado Alley in the American Midwest.

In July 2005 Birmingham was struck by one of the most brutal tornados recorded in this country, with wind speeds estimated to have reached over 225km/h (140mph), which blasted out shop fronts, roofs were ripped off, buildings collapsed, more than a thousand trees were felled, and 19 people were injured. The damage was estimated at £39 million.

In 1954 another violent tornado appeared in west and northwest London. A huge thunderstorm drove in from the South Coast, the sky turned ink-black and a tornado touched down at Bushey Park, near Hampton Court, smashing down trees.

At about 5pm, the storm reached Chiswick, in West London, with a huge conical cloud hanging from the sky, green lightning flashing from its sides and a deafening roar like an express train. The tornado blew Gunnersbury station apart then demolished two factories and drove on through Acton, not far from BBC Television Centre, to Willesden, near Kensal Rise.

Roofs on houses were ripped off, chimneys crashed down and walls collapsed. A car was hurled through the air while terrified people outside ran for cover as bricks, glass and wood shot through the air like missiles. Newsreels of the day show a scene of devastation described as looking like something from The Blitz. In all this mayhem, it is incredible that there were only a few minor injuries.

The past few years have seen a number of notable tornados in Britain. However, there is no evidence that the number or intensity of tornados is rising here or elsewhere in the world, because of global warming.

Tornados in Britain

  • The highest death toll from one tornado in Britain was six, at Edwardsville, a mining town in Glamorgan, on October 27, 1913
  • Two people were killed in Guildford, Surrey, on August 2, 1906
  • On May 21, 1950, a tornado extended from Wendover, Buckinghamshire to Ely, Cambridgeshire, a distance of 68 miles (110km)
  • Selsey, in West Sussex, was hit twice, on January 8, 1998, when Patrick Moore’s telescopes were damaged, and again on October 30, 2000, when caravans were turned over at a caravan park. Selsey is particularly prone to tornados because it is downwind of the Isle of Wight which, like a rock in a river, helps to set up turbulence in winds from the South West
  • A tornado struck Boarhunt, a village in Hampshire, last month, throwing two ponies into the air and leaving a trail of wreckage. Sheds were flattened, trees uprooted and power lines came down. No one was hurt
  • Nineteen people were injured, three seriously, when a tornado ripped through the streets of Birmingham in July last year. The Met Office estimated the wind speed may have reached 130mph

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