Updated: Feb 8, 2020
by Marion Feldhofer
Living in the UK you consider yourself safe from extreme weather conditions such as tornados. It’s not that we’re living in the US, a country perceived to have the most and strongest tornados of all.
Then you’ll probably be surprised to hear that the UK – with somewhere between 30 and 50 tornados a year – has the most tornados per land area worldwide. Most of the tornados we get in the UK are small and don’t have much impact, but occasionally they can be bigger, like the one we experienced just before Christmas in Ottershaw. We’re still not talking about a movie-like twister, but we’re talking about a storm that caused significant damage to Clarendon Gate and surrounding areas.
As a resident of Clarendon Gate, I witnessed the tornado hitting ground and playing havoc with our houses and cars. It was a matter of one minute, with the real damage being done in a six second window as the storm passed through the estate on December 21st of last year, at 10:16am. It was a Saturday morning, which I had decided to spend in bed, with a nice cuppa, recovering from the runup to Christmas and the end to a busy year. It started with a very strong gust of wind, the light outside changing to slightly yellow and a noise that I hadn’t heard before.
But it wasn’t just a gust of wind. Coming from the Austrian alps, I know what really strong wind looks and sounds like. It was nothing like anything I’d experienced before – I was immediately alert, my heart started pounding and I had goose bumps all over my body. I was inconsolable up to the point I left the house, about 5 minutes later to see the destruction the tornado has caused in our estate. Fallen trees, the streets were cluttered with roof tiles, half of the cars in our road were damaged from roof tiles being blown into wind screens and windows. Half of the residents were outside to examine the devastation. Thank goodness no one was hurt.
It was a shattering experience, but what followed in the hours after was beyond words. We experienced what our council tax pays for – we had six police cars on the estate, three fully equipped fire engines and two of the latest state-of-the-art lifting platforms – but also, the manner in which everyone dealt with the crisis. We all stuck together, all hands on deck, helping with cleaning up, getting tea, having child care organized – it was beautiful to see how neighbours helped each other.
Keeping a long story short – two things I learned that day: (1) never underestimate the power of a community, and (2) what great value we receive from our world class emergency services. I know that other areas have been hit equally bad or even worse and although I don’t know they benefited from the same services, I truly hope everyone was compensated for the damage that was done. Eventually the tornado will become a distant memory and quite a story to tell.