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The tornado hit Main Street in Leitrim village. Google Streetview
Storm Fergus

'It happened so fast': Leitrim Village hit by 'localised tornado' during Storm Fergus

Footage and photos posted on social media show debris scattered around streets and significant damage to cars and some property.

LAST UPDATE | 10 Dec 2023

EMERGENCY SERVICES REMAIN at the scene and some residents require alternative accommodation after a small tornado swept through Leitrim Village today. 

Footage and photos posted on social media show debris scattered around streets and significant damage to cars and some property in the small village.

Leitrim County Council described it as a “freak weather incident, in the form of a tornado”.

Gardaí have asked that people avoid the area, as Storm Fergus crosses over the country.

“The village is closed. Please avoid the area and be patient while emergency services deal with the incident,” the An Garda Síochána account for road traffic updates posted on X.

The county is under a yellow wind warning, which has seen very strong and gusty southwesterly winds throughout parts of the country today.

A status yellow thunderstorm warning is in place for a number of counties surrounding Leitrim, including Roscommon and Longford.

Leitrim County Council said a “number of vehicles and properties in the village suffered significant damage, with the roof being removed completely from one building and a number of other buildings suffering roof damage”. 

As a result, a council spokesperson said “some residents of Leitrim Village required alternative accommodation and Leitrim County Council have assisted and provided accommodation for those persons”.

The council added that a “significant amount of debris was thrown onto the footpaths and main road and a cleanup operation is now well underway”.

The main R280 road passing through the village will remain closed until a “further assessment of the structural damage within the village has been carried out”.

Traffic management is in place and traffic is being diverted on alternate routes around Leitrim village, and the footpaths are also closed to pedestrians.

The freak weather event is associated with thunderstorms and while rare in Ireland, they can happen in “localised” settings, according to Liz Walsh, a meteorologist with Met Éireann.

“Small tornadoes are something that can occur and are associated with thunderstorms. It’s a risk with thunderstorms and is unusual in Ireland but it does happen,” she told The Journal.

“Often it’s caused by the change in wind direction up in the cloud. That can cause rotation to happen and you can get these things called funnel clouds, or tornados if they hit the ground. Another feature that’s like a tornado are straight line gusts of wind and they cause plenty of damage as well.

“We usually don’t get them but obviously Storm Fergus has released some very unstable conditions over Ireland today.”

Walsh said that the “most unstable air” has dissipated but advised that as Storm Fergus sweeps northeastwards across the country, there is “a chance we could see some thunderstorms later on in the west”.

Councillor Paddy Farrell said he was almost caught in the middle of the “tornado” while driving through Leitrim village.

“I was actually driving through the village myself. If I was a second slower I’d have been in the brunt of it,” he said.

“I was driving my Jeep. It sounded as if there was a crowd pegging stones at my Jeep as I was driving through, with all the debris that was flying around. It just happened all of a sudden.”

Farrell, who lives near the village, said the wind took a roof off a building.

“There was a roof taken off a building, and there was several buildings damaged. Even on fairly new apartments there was damage, I think the window blew in on one of them.

“There’s a lot of cars damaged, there could be 10 to 20 cars damaged.”

He said emergency services were called and businesses near the scene had closed.

“No one was badly injured, but I think there were two minor injuries,” he said, adding: “I was actually shook when I came home to the house, because it was frightening – I kept going to get home as quick as I could.”

The thunderstorm warning and Leitrim’s wind warning is due to lift at 9pm.

-With additional reporting from Press Association

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