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An aerial view of the damage caused. Alan O'Reilly/Carlow Weather

Tornado suspected after buildings damaged by strong winds in Wexford

A local described the noise as like ‘a train coming through the house’.

LAST UPDATE | 29 Dec 2023

A SHORT-LIVED TORNADO has been suggested as the cause of damage to a property in Co Wexford during Storm Gerrit.

Shortly before 7am on Thursday morning, residents of Woodgrauige near Duncormick in the south of the county were woken by extremely strong winds.

“It has been described to me by one local as if a train was going through the house,” local Aontú councillor Jim Codd told The Journal.

Outbuildings belonging to one family were severely damaged during the incident, with one steel-framed structure collapsing and the winds narrowly missing their home.

When I arrived, I was quite taken aback by the damage caused. [The wind] pulled off steel girders, and wooden sleepers were flung into the surrounding hills.

“The winds hit that spot, and the neighbours 300 or 400 yards away were untouched.”

The Journal / YouTube

Corrugated roof sheeting was ripped from sheds and strewn across a wide area – as far as 600 metres – and also caused damage to the roof of the family’s home.

Trees were downed nearby, but little other damage was caused in the wider area, although slates were ripped off the roofs of some other homes.

Codd praised the local community and council who assisted with the clean-up, and helped the family impacted erect a tarpaulin provided by the council over their home, to prevent water leaking through the damaged roof during further rain in the coming days.

Shed 1 The collapsed steel structure. Jim Codd Jim Codd

Shed 2 Jim Codd Jim Codd

Alan O’Reilly of Carlow Weather visited the scene today.

He told this website that while it is hard to discern exactly what happened due to the lack of eyewitnesses and a quick clean-up  by the community and council, he believes the fact that debris was throw so far from the scene indicates that it may have been a short-lived tornado.

Another possibility is a phenomenon known as straight line winds. These can emanate from a thunderstorm and are similar in strength to a tornado but do not rotate.

“I’d be fairly confident it was a tornado, especially given how another local up the road said he was finding pieces of guttering in his garden as well, which would be another 200 or 300 metres west of where I saw the roofing sheets,” O’Reilly said, adding that a power cable connected to the house was also found “snapped in the middle”.

Alan 1 The distance two pieces of roofing (bottom red circles) were thrown in relation to the property (top red circle). Alan O'Reilly / Carlow Weather Alan O'Reilly / Carlow Weather / Carlow Weather

Ireland is not immune to tornados, with one recently causing widespread damage to one town in Leitrim, and south Wexford is also no stranger to them: a tornado caused damage in Foulksmills and Clongeen, about 10km north west of Duncormick, in November 2022.

O’Reilly said that these incidents can fly under the radar as they occur in open farmland or when the damage is limited to vegetation rather than property.

Codd also highlighted that the father of the owner of the property damaged recalled a similar incident decades ago.

In a statement, Met Éireann said that a heavy shower pushed across southern Wexford on Thursday morning, with a gust of more than 60km/h recorded at the forecaster’s weather station at Johnstown Castle around 12km away.

The forecaster also provided radar imagery that shows “a small but very active shower cell passed over the area” at around 6.30am:

The grey and white colours at the core of the cell would indicate it was a very intense shower which would have associated features like very heavy rain and strong wind gusts amongst others. Unfortunately, it would not be possible to confirm whether a tornado was the cause of the damage at the site, but it could not be ruled out.

unnamed (3) Met Éireann Met Éireann

Storm Gerrit was also responsible causing a tornado in Manchester in the United Kingdom, causing widespread property damage.

Sheeting 1 Roof sheeting was thrown into nearby fields. Jim Codd Jim Codd

However, experts warn that severe weather events are likely to become more common due to climate change.

Codd, pointing to not just incidents of strong winds causing damage but also flooding that hit nearby areas such as Rosslare in recent months, said “it sometimes seems like we’re at the epicentre of climate change here – the low-lying ground here is where we seem to be experiencing it”.

The councillor said the government needs to support the council in providing “real solutions” that will help alleviate the problem in the coming years, and added that support for families impacted by severe weather events should be put in place.

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