Rare tornado spotted in Bristol channel as storms hit
SNOW, hail, heavy rain and thunder – the Bristol area has experienced it all over the past two weeks.
And now the wild weather has caused a spectacle in the Bristol Channel, with local people capturing a picture of what appears to be a mini tornado in the estuary.
This picture was taken by Sue Hewitt, of Downend, who spotted the event while out walking along the coastal path between Clevedon and Portishead at around 1pm on Sunday.
Mrs Hewitt, 53, a keen walker, said: "The weather was very overcast with dark clouds and it looked like it was going to rain.
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"I suddenly noticed what I thought was a tornado about half-way across the channel so quickly took some pictures.
"I could see it spinning around and around and lifting up the sea.
"As it went past me towards the Severn Bridges, it got wider at the bottom and the top of the spout started to disperse so it eventually looked like a large cloud over the sea.
"It only took around five minutes from the time I first spotted it to it dispersing completely.
"The weather was dreadful on Sunday with strong winds and squally showers but I have never seen anything like this.
"I felt very privileged to see nature like this."
Met Office experts have confirmed the picture is of a waterspout and said although they are not common, around 30 to 40 are spotted on average across the UK each year.
A Met Office spokesman said: "The weather conditions required for the formation of a funnel cloud usually have to be showery, so a day when heavy showers or thunderstorms occur, and there were showers in the Bristol Channel on Sunday.
"Funnel clouds are caused by the up and down draughts that can occur within deep shower clouds called Cumulonimbus clouds.
"Certain conditions, usually a significant directional change in wind and its speed, and changes in temperature, can lead to the rotation at the base of the cloud and sometimes a funnel cloud appears.
"If this funnel cloud extends down to the ground and makes contact it is then called a tornado. Waterspouts are just tornadoes that form over the sea or lakes."
Heavy thunder and hail storms battered the region on Sunday afternoon and up to 15mm of rain was expected to have fallen across the region by the end of yesterday.
Environment Agency chiefs say they expect between 15mm and 30mm of rain to fall today at the same time as spring tides peak along the coast.
Tidal surges are also expected as strong winds whip up the tides further, giving potential for coastal flooding.
Environment Agency spokesman Paul Gainey said he expected flood warnings to be issued over the coming days.
North Somerset Council said flood defence gates at Weston-super-Mare, installed as part of a £29 million flood defence project, would be in use.
"We have not received any specific warnings from the Environment Agency, but have decided to deploy the sea defences all week to minimise as much as we can the risk of any flooding in Weston," he said.
"We will continue to monitor this situation closely, as well as across the rest of the district.
"We advise residents to follow weather and flood warnings if they are issued by the Met Office and Environment Agency.
"Our website www.n-somerset. gov.uk/flood has plenty of advice and information about flooding and what to do in the event of flooding, including ways to report it."