Winds of terror

Somerset Bridge residents have spoken of the terror they felt when a tornado tore through their neighbourhood yesterday afternoon, ripping roofs off houses and sending huge chunks of debris crashing into a supermarket.

Miraculously, no one was hurt when freak winds wreaked havoc in the White Hill, Woodlawn Road, Sandys area just after 2 p.m ? described by one eye-witness as involving a 60-foot water spout that sent trees flying.


Somerset Bridge residents have spoken of the terror they felt when a tornado tore through their neighbourhood yesterday afternoon, ripping roofs off houses and sending huge chunks of debris crashing into a supermarket.

Miraculously, no one was hurt when freak winds wreaked havoc in the White Hill, Woodlawn Road, Sandys area just after 2 p.m ? described by one eye-witness as involving a 60-foot water spout that sent trees flying.

Six homes had their roofs blown off, and many more suffered damage. The area was left strewn with rubble, and scores of government and emergency services workers were last night working on the clean-up effort.

Wayne Ball, 47, was at his Phillpott's Hill Drive home when he witnessed a giant water spout whip into the neighbourhood from the ocean.

?I saw a wall of water flying out of the channel and form a water spout. When it came ashore, I saw debris flying from my neighbour's house, and trees flying through the air. I was amazed ? the spout was about 60 feet wide, stretching from the water into the sky, and the speed that it travelled at was unbelievable,? he said.

Derrick Hill, 23, was sitting on the porch of his home when the swirling winds blew his roof clean off.

?I was just sitting there, watching the rain and listening to music when the rain picked up and the wind started swirling. I've experienced a tornado before, years ago, so I ran inside the house. I saw the trees circulating, then my roof came off. I was just trying to get inside and hoping that it wouldn't suck me out. The whole thing only lasted two or three seconds,? he said.

The roofs of the houses on either side of his were also swept away.

Lena Mae Brangman, 76, also lost most of the roof of her home, on the corner of Woodlawn Road and Middle Road.

?The tornado sounded like a choo-choo train coming through ? it roared,? she said. ?I was sitting in the kitchen cutting up some vegetables when I heard all this noise, then the lights went dim. I was quite frightened and my dog Milo was shaking. I looked out and saw slates from across the street lying on the lawns and in the roads.?

Mrs. Brangman had previously lost part of the roof of her home during Hurricane Emily in 1987.

Edith Dolmo lives downstairs from Mrs. Brangman. She went outside after the tornado hit to find that her Daihatsu car had been wrecked by a large chunk of masonry that had crashed through the roof.

?I was watching Rosa Parks's funeral on television when I heard this funny noise, which is not one that I ever want to hear again,? she said.

?The tornado came through so fast ? it just went 'caboom' and then it was over. I'm just glad that no-one was hurt.?

In fact, the masonry from the roof of this particular property is believed to have been carried around 50 metres by the tornado which then sent it crashing through the roof of the Maximart supermarket across the street.

Store manager Gord Allingham said there had been around five customers inside at the time ? but none near the area where the roof caved in.

?I was in the receiving area when it happened. Everything went dark and the wind was whirling and circling. Then there was a sound like an explosion or a car crash,? he said. ?It was a miracle that no-one was hurt.?

Despite the damage, the store carried on trading as usual.

Frederick Winslow-Williams of White Hill View was at work when his brother called to say that part of the roof had blown off his house.

?I'm glad that this happened during working hours when not many people were around or it could have been worse,? he said, as he began to clear up the damage.

Many of those who gathered to view the scene in Somerset Bridge commented that they had not seen such widespread damage since Hurricane Fabian.

Scores of workers from the Ministry of Works and Engineering, the Fire Department and the Bermuda Regiment were sent to help with the clean-up operation, assess the extent of the damage, and cover the missing roofs with tarpaulins. They were still working at nightfall.

However, the Bermuda Weather Service maintained that the weather event had not been a tornado, but simply ?strong gusts in the area?.

Meteorologist Kimberley Zuill said there had been ?windshear? ? which means wind going in different directions and speeds ? at the Airport, which is one of many components of a tornado.

However, she continued: ?I took a look at our new radar and the evidence does not show that there was tornadic activity. If someone saw a sheet of rainfall heading towards them it could look like a water spout. In order to have a water spout you would need stable conditions which were the opposite of what we had at the time.?

The Weather Department will assess evidence from the scene later to try to establish exactly what happened.

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