Storm Gerrit: Stalybridge tornado ‘was a whirlwind of madness’on December 28, 2023 at 9:21 pm

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A tree crashed into another woman’s bathroom during the tornado near Manchester in Storm Gerrit.

Aerial photograph of a house which had its roof ripped off during a localized tornadoImage source, EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

A tornado which tore roofs off houses and destroyed walls during Storm Gerrit has been described by one woman as a “whirlwind of madness”.

Greater Manchester Police declared a major incident in Tameside on Wednesday night as about 100 homes were damaged.

Stalybridge resident Kerry Hogan said it was “bedlam” with trees toppling “like dominoes” while another woman said a tree fell into her bathroom.

There were no reports of injuries caused by the tornado in Stalybridge.

Ms Hogan told BBC Radio 5 Live the tornado “lasted a minute, 90 seconds, literally a whirlwind of madness” and it “sounded horrendous”.

“We couldn’t open the front door as the wind was that bad,” she added.

“Lamp-posts were swaying, we watched trees topple like dominoes.

“All the neighbours were out, it was bedlam.

“People have had cars crushed.

“It was horrific and how nobody has been hurt is unbelievable.”

Hayley McCaffer

Hayley McCaffer, 40, who lives in nearby Carrbrook, said some of her neighbours’ houses were “an absolute disaster” with missing roofs and “squished” cars.

She and her partner are not sure when they can get back into their home.

Patricia Watkinson, another Carrbrook resident who was away in Norfolk when the tornado swept through the village, has been told by a neighbour that apart from a “dangling” aerial, her home appears undamaged.

But the 83-year-old said her neighbour’s shed was “gone”.

Millbrook resident Maisie Pilkington said a tree came through her roof as she slept.

“I opened the door and thought ‘oh my God’,” she said.

“The tree’s hit the roof and gone through my bathroom.

“The whole ceiling of my bathroom is down, the tree’s in the bathroom and the whole tree is being held up by one branch.

“If it snaps, it’s going to go through the whole house.”

Damaged caused to a property by tornado

Image source, ADAM VAUGHAN/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Elsewhere in the UK, Storm Gerrit has brought flooding and disrupted travel, with Scotland worst affected.

The north-west of England, the southern coast, Wales and Northern Ireland were also covered by Met Office yellow weather warnings on Wednesday, with heavy rain and wind battering them.

The Met Office said the storm had now passed but further unsettled weather was likely later in the week, with strong winds, rain and some upland snow.

BBC weather presenter Matt Taylor said there had been a “big clutch of thunderstorms” across Greater Manchester and the Met Office said that “it is likely that it was a tornado which brought the damage to Stalybridge”.

“It was just a small, short-lived tornado and that’s why the damage was limited to quite a small area,” he said.

“What is quite surprising to many is that we actually see more tornadoes per square mile here in the UK than anywhere else in the world.

“But like we saw in Stalybridge they’re usually very small, they don’t last long, and so we don’t really notice them as much as you do in other parts of the world.

“Tornadoes, whatever their size, can cause huge amounts of damage. You can see short and longer spells of very intense winds of over 100 miles an hour. Hence you can see damage to buildings, to property and trees and various other structures brought down quite quickly.”

Damaged car with broken windscreen

Fire and ambulance crews joined officials from Electricity North West and the council at multiple sites across Tameside. A rest centre was set up at Dukinfield Town Hall.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said crews were called “to multiple reports of damage to various sites and properties in Stalybridge at about 23:00 and worked to make homes and residents safe until 07:00”.

The executive leader of Tameside Council, Ged Cooney, said the major incident at Stalybridge had been stood down and thanked emergency services for their efforts.

He said: “Thankfully there are no casualties from the incident but there are of course local residents who are devastated by the damage caused to their homes.

“Our officers have been out all night and continue to be out today clearing debris, fallen trees and making roads, footpaths and other areas safe as soon as possible.”

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