Funnel clouds sighted as close as Carntogher on the Glenshane amid week of tornado forecasts

Several funnel clouds were spotted across the north during a week when meteorologists had forecast isolated brief tornadoes, hail, thunderstorms and heavy rain were possible due to convective weather conditions.

Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 10:22 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 10:24 am

The clouds - which become tornadoes when they make contact with the ground - were spotted as close to Derry as Carntogher between Dungiven and Maghera on the Glenshane last Wednesday.

There was also sightings at Newtownsaville, outside Omagh, and in the Newry area.

For almost a week meteorologists at the Tornado and Storm Research Organisation (TORRO) had been forecasting that much of the north and a small part of the north and west of the south of Ireland could expect the weather phenomena.

One Twitter user, Emlyn James Smyth from the Omagh area, posted an image of a funnel cloud, tweeting: "Have we any tornado warnings for the Newtownsaville area outside Omagh in place for today???"

The weather conditions in Derry over the weekend remained favourable for the formation of funnel clouds, tornadoes and waterspouts with dark banks of low lying rain-laden cumuliform clouds regularly forming over the Sperrins and Donegal hills.

TORRO were forecasting possible hazards including isolated brief tornadoes, heavy rain, hail up to 10 to 15mm in diameter and cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning across Derry and Donegal until yesterday when the possibility lessened and the focus shifted to Britain.

Isolated brief tornadoes, heavy rain, hail up to 10 to 15mm in diameter and cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning, were forecast for the past week.

Scientists at TORRO, which carries out research on many aspects of severe weather including hailstorms, lightning impacts, tornadoes and thunderstorms, estimate around 30 tornadoes are reported across Ireland and Britain every year.

The first attested tornado in Europe occurred in Ireland in 1054 in what is present day Westmeath.

The Annals of the Four Masters record it thus: "A steeple of fire was seen in the air over Ros-Deala, on the Sunday of the festival of George, for the space of five hours; innumerable black birds passing into and out of it, and one large bird in the middle of them; and the little birds went under his wings, when they went into the steeple.

"They came out, and raised up a greyhound, that was in the middle of the town, aloft in the air, and let it drop down again, so that it died immediately; and they took up three cloaks and two shirts, and let them drop down in the same manner. The wood on which these birds perched fell under them; and the oak tree upon which they perched shook with its roots in the earth."

TORRO states that the earliest tornado known in Britain hit St. Mary le Bow in central London in 1091.