West End homes hit by Tornado

several-hundred-thousand-dollar path of destruction through the Bob's Valley area of Somerset.

Thirteen homes were considered seriously damaged, with five nearly losing their entire roofs. And two homes were so badly hit that the occupants, two families,

several-hundred-thousand-dollar path of destruction through the Bob's Valley area of Somerset.

Thirteen homes were considered seriously damaged, with five nearly losing their entire roofs. And two homes were so badly hit that the occupants, two families, were forced to find other lodgings.

Windows were smashed, moongates collapsed, garden furniture and small boats were sent flying, and whole walls were toppled. Dozens of piles of rubble and debris were left scattered through the neighbourhood.

Just before the twister whipped through the West End, a violent thunderstorm downed telephone lines at hotels, the Bermuda College and several city businesses. And hail the size of marbles fell over the Southampton area.

Police and Fire Service officials last night gave an initial damage estimate of several hundred thousand dollars.

There were many narrow escapes by elderly residents dodging falling slate -- and a 65-foot tour boat which managed to manoeuvre its way out of a twister in the Great Sound.

But only two injuries were reported: a young girl taken to hospital with a nose bleed and a man struck in the head by falling debris.

There were apparently many elderly people at home when the tornado hit. One woman in her late 80s burst into tears, having suffered the trauma of seeing part of her roof cave in.

The emergency services, Bermuda Regiment members and Works and Engineering crews responded quickly to help residents struggling to secure tarpaulins over their homes in the lashing rain and wind.

The four Opposition MPs for Sandys also rushed to the scene to help members of their constituencies repair the damage.

Governor Lord Waddington and Health, Housing and Social Services Minister the Hon. Quinton Edness paid afternoon visits to the area.

Stunned residents told frightening stories of how the freak twister came crashing ashore with no warning at around 11.30 a.m.

It hovered over the Great Sound for several minutes, creating water spouts which visitors at Dockyard described as "spectacular''. One was said to have occurred right in front of the Meridian cruise liner.

"It ripped through the front of Bob's Valley, straight over Cook's Hill and into the sea,'' Mr. Jerome Crockwell of Cook's Hill said.

About five minutes before it swept though, Mr. Crockwell said he saw "clouds going in all different directions. It sounded like a big plane crashing. All you could see was boards and pieces of trees flying in all directions.'' Miss Marlon Cann of Middle Road in Somerset said her grandmother was in the bedroom when the roof caved in over her bed about 11.30 a.m. "Luckily she had not been sleeping,'' Miss Cann commented.

The house opposite, with a `for sale' sign, lost windows and half of its roof.

But the Bob's Valley area was by far the worst hit, with some 20 homes suffering damage.

Residents Mr. Damaine Simmons and Mr. Mark Tatem said they saw "big pieces of board flying around'' and "roofs being ripped off like paper''. Mr. Steven Gardner said he saw "boats go flying''.

A shaken Mr. Freddie Tucker told how he was struck in the head by falling slate.

Many Bob's Valley residents jammed the roads in cars, having left work to see if their homes were damaged.

Miss Gina Assing said she rushed home after she saw the tornado go aground in Somerset from her job at Pompano Beach Club.

Belco spokeswoman Ms Linda Smith said electricity outages due to the storm and tornado were minimal. The 25 homes hit in the tornado all lost power, but were back on by 3.30 p.m., she said, adding only one pole was reported down in the area. There were also about a dozen scattered power outages due to the thunderstorm.

Telco general manager Mr. Ernest Pacheco said lightning wrecked telephone lines at the Elbow Beach Hotel, Clear View guest house, BF&M insurance company, the Bermuda Times offices and Bermuda College.

But engineers worked flat out during the lunchtime to restore all the lines.

He added the tornado felled roughly 20 lines in the Somerset area.

Though small craft and thunderstorm warnings had been in effect since early morning, a "severe thunderstorm/tornado warning'' was only issued at noon -- about a half-hour after the twister whipped through Bob's Valley.

A forecaster at the US Naval Oceanographic Command Facility admitted yesterday's weather forecast -- "partly sunny'' with "brief showers'' -- was "off target''. But he said predicting the weather was not an easy task.

The tornado was a result of a "sudden development'', he said. An intense cold front passed over Bermuda, bringing a lot of unexpected prefrontal activity.

As soon as reports of waterspouts were received, a tornado warning was issued, he said.

The last tornado to touch down in Bermuda occurred just over a year ago at the other end of the Island. Some 40 homes in St. David's were damaged, costing insurance companies more than $500,000.

ASSESSING THE DAMAGE -- Residents of Bob's Valley Lane wasted no time climbing onto their roofs to see how much damage the twister had caused.

COVER-UP -- Somerset residents and Government workers help secure a tarpaulin over a house near St. James' Church on Middle Road, Somerset.

HANDFUL OF HAIL -- Miss Regina Williams shows a fistful of marble-sized hail she collected from the grounds of the Reefs hotel in Southampton where she works.

WORKING TOGETHER -- Firemen help put back displaced slate on the roof of a house on Bob's Valley Lane.

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