Freak tornado tears through South Shore

Businesses and residents are assessing the financial impact today after a freak tornado ripped through the Island at the weekend - leaving a trail of wreckage in its wake.

More than $100,000 worth of damage is believed to have been caused to The Reefs Hotel in Southampton after the ferocious storm tore across some of its guest apartments and terrace on Saturday night, taking the roof with it.

  • Staff remove debris from the roof of The Reefs following Saturday night's tornado.

    Staff remove debris from the roof of The Reefs following Saturday night's tornado.


Businesses and residents are assessing the financial impact today after a freak tornado ripped through the Island at the weekend - leaving a trail of wreckage in its wake.

More than $100,000 worth of damage is believed to have been caused to The Reefs Hotel in Southampton after the ferocious storm tore across some of its guest apartments and terrace on Saturday night, taking the roof with it.

The entire terrace ceiling was lifted off and smashed to smithereens, and a number of 60lb sun loungers next to the pool were literally picked up and thrown around the building.

Yesterday, owner David Dodwell said he expected the bill to reach well in excess of $100,000, but said staff were still surveying the damage, so the cost could rise still further.

The localised tornado also damaged the tennis courts at neighbouring Sonesta Beach Hotel, Henry VIII pub and restaurant, and some homes in the immediate vicinity.

And a number of trees at the Southampton Princess were also unearthed and left strewn across the golf course.

However, the swirl of fierce weather seems only to have hit a small section of Southampton on the southern side, as those living just a few hundred yards away on the northern side were totally unaffected.

Mr. Dodwell said: "We believe that the roof of between ten and 12 guest rooms has been damaged, and the roof of the main terrace was completely wiped out.

"Everyone said it just sounded like a freight train coming. Apparently, everything went white, which I presume was salt water, and then it went quiet again. It lasted just minutes."

Mr. Dodwell said his staff had turned out yesterday to assess the damage and help clean up, and by late morning, the hotel was almost back to normal, except for the obviously damaged roof.

Reefs general manager Neal Stephens said the tornado struck at about 11.45 p.m. on Saturday when the staff of A.F. Smith were enjoying their Christmas party.

"The hotel staff said they could not see a thing outside," he said.

"Everything went completely white, the building shook and their was a loud roar. But then it was over in ten seconds. It was like a wall of water.

"The staff went outside to look and the whole roof of the terrace was gone and the pillars had fallen over. There was not one piece of the terrace left. We have lost a few windows and glass doors, and there is a lot of slate missing, but we are just very glad that nobody was hurt.

"And despite all that, the party continued as normal. People stayed on and had a great time."

He said no one appeared to be in the affected guest rooms when the storm hit.

The Reefs catered to the usual 80 or 90 people for brunch yesterday, and he said very quickly it was business as usual.

Mr. Stephens said he hoped to see the roof mended by next Friday, but said repairs to the terrace would be left until after the New Year.

Fortunately, he said the hotel was quiet this week so guests would not be affected by the damage, and he hoped all traces of the storm would be removed by the time the influx of Christmas guests arrived this coming weekend.

John Ferris, general manager of the Henry VIII pub and restaurant, said guests on the property failed to hear the tornado on Saturday night as the noise was drowned out by the entertainment, but said the kitchen staff were taken by surprise.

"It whipped through here and did some damage," said Mr. Ferris.

"We had the doors upstairs pushed in and the big sign outside was literally taken out of the ground. It took one of the air conditioning covers off the roof....and the outside furniture was busted up. There was a lot of debris when I got here this morning.

"We have had a lot of cleaners in this morning helping us to sort everything out. Fortunately, the financial damage is probably not a great deal - maybe between $2,000 and $3,000. That is mainly in labour to get things put back."

Lorna Wilson, who lives close to nearby Cross Bay, said when she heard the storm on Saturday night, she was so shocked, she went to look outside.

"It just seemed to hit and then subside in five or ten minutes," she said.

"I had to actually go to the door to see what was happening, it was so violent. The rain and the wind was just hitting up against the house. It came out of nowhere and then seemed to disappear again.

"Luckily, we have suffered no damage. Nothing happened here, surprisingly."

Weather observer at the Bermuda Weather Service Wayne Little said the freak storm could have been a very localised tornado that whipped up across the South Shore in Southampton, hitting only a handful of properties.

He said: "It was possibly a small tornado, as it was very localised. We certainly did not have anything logged here at the airport.

"We did have a strap line of heavy showers coming across the Island....and normally a tornado would come just behind a shower. It starts when you get two contrasting winds and it creates a vortex (whirlpool).

"They can be very small sometimes, so people on the other side of the Island might not have known anything."

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