Tree flattened by suspected tornado

STEPHEN PULLINGER Staff and residents of a village care home were still shaken yesterday by their near-miss after a suspected tornado flattened a 40ft tree in their normally serene garden.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

Staff and residents of a village care home were still shaken yesterday by their near miss after a suspected tornado flattened a 40ft tree in their normally serene garden.

While the trunk of the copper beech, believed to be nearly 200 years old, was snapped in two near its base by the power of the wind, the Old Vicarage care home in the centre of Ludham, near Yarmouth, was left untouched with not so much as a roof tile out of place.

Home owner Ashley George said: "Incredibly, because of the noise of the wind, none of our 29 residents or staff heard the tree come down even though it was only a matter of yards away and made quite a mess of the lawn. Staff were astonished when they discovered it the following morning coming into work.

"I am just grateful it did not fall the opposite way because it could have crashed on to one of the bungalows in the road next to us."

He said the tree, protected by a preservation order, had been in perfect health and was even coming into bud early.

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"It just shows the awesome force of the wind. What we need now is for someone to come and clear it up. It will make an awful lot of firewood for someone," he said.

The suspected tornado, which struck at about 6.30pm on Saturday, also caused serious damage to the roof of a house in nearby Whitegates, and villagers reported wheelie bins being tossed in the air.

One resident, Jason Parkes, told the EDP on Monday how his house shook and, when he opened the door, his arms were nearly pulled out of their sockets.

Phil Garner, a forecaster for UEA-based WeatherQuest, said as many as 25-30 tornadoes were reported annually across the country, but he remained sceptical about whether one had actually struck Ludham on Saturday.

"For a tornado to be confirmed you would have to see a funnel cloud touching down," he said.

Satellite pictures showed a line of squally showers passing through the area at the time and the resultant wind speeds of up to 60mph could be enough to topple trees, he said.

"It is difficult to determine wind speeds from a tree coming down in this way because it depends on the health of the tree and how deep-rooted it is," he said.