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Extreme Tornadoes In British History

December 3, 2013

By Paul Homewood


h/t Jimbo


Further to my post on UK tornadoes yesterday, TORRO, The Tornado and Storm Research Organisation, have details of some of the most extreme events in the UK.


Longest-Track Tornado
On May 21, 1950, a tornado which touched-down at Little London (Buckinghamshire) tracked 107.1 km to Coveney (Cambridgeshire). From there it continued as a funnel cloud, travelling another 52.6 km to Shipham (Norfolk) where it was last seen disappearing out across the North Sea (and hence the distance travelled as a funnel is the absolute minimum). Reports are sufficiently frequent from the many villages along this T5-6 tornado’s track to indicate that it probably was caused by a single tornado, rather than a series of individual tornadoes


Widest Tornado Path

A tornado on September 22, 1810 (T4) at Fernhill Heath (Hereford & Worcester) had a path width varying between 805 m and 1,609 m (converted from the reported 0.5 to 1 mi); however there is the possibility of the upward-rounding of the figures, given the reported values and the units used. The tornado of July 4, 1946 (T2) which hit Fairlight (East Sussex) had a width of 1,207 m (converted from reported 0.75 mi), while in this case only one figure was quoted.


Most Intense Tornado

Artist's impression of the St. Mary le Bow tornado

Artist’s impression of the St. Mary le Bow tornado


Two tornadoes in Britain are known to have reached T8; their antiquated nature (especially of the one) necessitated great caution in assigning intensities, so it is possible that they may have been even stronger. The first, also Britain’s earliest known tornado, occurred on October 23, 1091. The church at St. Mary le Bow in central London was badly damaged, with four rafters – each 7.9 m long (converted from the reported 26 ft) – being driven into the ground (composed of heavy London Clay) with such force that only 1.2 m (converted from the reported 4 ft) protruded above the surface. Other churches in the area were demolished, as were over 600 (mostly wooden) houses. On December 14, 1810, another T8 tornado tracked from Old Portsmouth to Southsea Common (Hampshire) also causing immense damage – although no deaths, it is believed. Some houses were completely levelled and many others were so badly damaged that they had to be demolished; chimneys were blown down and the lead on a bank roof was "rolled up like a piece of canvas and blown from its situation".


Largest Tornado Outbreak
The largest tornado outbreak in Britain is also the largest tornado outbreak known anywhere in Europe. On November 23, 1981, 105 tornadoes were spawned by a cold front in the space of 5.25 hours. Excepting Derbyshire, every county in a triangular area from Gwynedd to Humberside to Essex was hit by at least one tornado, while Norfolk was hit by at least 13. Very fortunately most tornadoes were short-lived and also weak (the strongest was around T5 on the TORRO Tornado Scale) and no deaths occurred



TORRO’s classification of T8’s is:-



This would qualify as an EF-5 tornado, although direct comparisons are always difficult.

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