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Selsey tornado leaves erratic trail of destruction

TORNADO DAMAGE inflicted on structures at Selsey last week was very different from the consequences of a normal UK storm. Fortunately only two people were reported to be injured, despite hundreds of properties being damaged and areas left almost like a war zone.

As daylight on Thursday revealed the path of the vortex across the suburban seaside promontory, it was apparent that there were extraordinary contrasts in damage caused to adjacent buildings and structures.

Where a conventional gust of wind will destroy the weakest elements first - gable tiles, flimsy flat roofs and garden sheds - Selsey's tornado frequently plucked out very robust structures while leaving less solid constructions untouched nearby.

As the twister met the western shore of Selsey Bill it ripped out the entire gable wall of a seemingly well built bungalow but left the property's shack-like garden shed almost unscathed.

Halfway across the town the tornado was particularly destructive. Most buildings shed tiles, several lost complete brick built chimney stacks and a number of prefabricated concrete lock-up garages had their flat roofs ripped off. Fences, garden sheds and light timber garages within the narrow path of the storm were wrecked.

And at one bungalow a mature Bramley apple tree was plucked clean out of the ground while not a single tile was lifted from the nearby house.

Failure of chimney stacks on typical 1930s houses left some comfort for those who were inside during the storm which struck at 11.45pm on Wednesday. The typical rafter, batten and tiled roofs seemed to be robust enough to protect occupants from these heavy masses of falling masonry.

The tornado's power was evident as it left town, with many windows, both of shops and parked cars, smashed. The cause was readily apparent - shattered fragments of tiles, timber structures and shards of glass were splattered all over and often deeply embedded in the ground. This was the debris picked up by the tornado upstream and hurled down again as a dense hail of shrapnel.

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