How Belfast Tornado hit Tigers Bay 40 years ago - BBC News

How Belfast Tornado hit Tigers Bay 40 years ago

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Forty years on, local residents recall that day, and the confusion of what they saw looking out of windows.

No-one was expecting a tornado to rip through Tigers Bay in north Belfast on the morning of 26 September 1982.

According to eyewitnesses it struck just before 09:00 and lasted about 15 seconds - long enough to cause a lot of damage.

Windows were smashed, tiles were ripped from roofs and a van was even lifted and smashed against a house.

"There was about three tons of material in the van, so you can guess what the wind was like," the owner of the house, Margaret Walker, told BBC News NI at the time.

"The next thing was everybody's slates came crashing down, windows all came tumbling in - it was just terrifying."

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Margaret Walker speaking to BBC News NI after the tornado in 1982

Forty years later, I tracked down Margaret's daughter, Gena, who remembers the tornado very well.

"Everything was broken and damaged, and my dad's van was totally destroyed" she recalled.

"The roof was badly damaged, windows were broken, and then after a few weeks my dad realised some of the walls had moved two inches.

"My mum phoned the emergency services and they laughed at her. They didn't believe a tornado could hit north Belfast."

Residents at the time reported seeing a whirlwind spinning objects in the air, pulling up fencing and taking down chimney pots in the streets between Limestone Road and Duncairn Gardens.

Luckily, most people were still in bed at that time on a Sunday morning.

"All I heard was the roof tiles cracking together and one of them came through my bedroom window," Andrew Glover said.

"I jumped up out of bed, and didn't know what was happening. I've never seen anything like it.

"No-one believed me when I told them I survived a tornado but now I've got the evidence to prove it."

Image source, BBx
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Residents reported seeing a whirlwind spinning objects in the air

According to reports at the time, the worst-affected streets were Kilronan Street and Upper Mervue Street.

Properties in other streets were also affected, however, and some people had to evacuate their homes.

'It was incredible'

Pastor Brian Madden watched from his bedroom window as the tornado moved towards his mother's home.

"I shouted into my mum that something was about to hit the house," he said.

"All of a sudden it just turned and went towards the old park and we escaped.

"It was incredible - we had no damage but everything behind our house was wrecked."

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The incident is now known as "The Belfast Tornado"

The tornado was so severe that the event was recorded in a global weather journal.

It is called "The Belfast Tornado" and it details what happened, including families being forced to evacuate their homes.

It also concludes that observations including damage reports are clear evidence of a tornado.

So, could it happen again?

The Met Office said it was unusual for a tornado to touch down in a built-up area, but when they do they tend to be very short lived.

But still, long enough to possibly cause this amount of damage.

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