Tornado hits Bristol Channel
A TORNADO has been spotted in the Bristol Channel.
Over the past few weeks wild weather has battered the Bristol area, with snow, hail and thunderstorms affecting the region.
And now the changeable weather has caused a spectacle in the Bristol Channel, with 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 freak of nature while out walking along the coastal path between Clevedon and Portishead at around 1pm on Sunday.
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Initially she thought it may be a tornado, but on closer inspection decided it was probably a water spout.
Mrs Hewitt, 53, a keen walker, said: "The weather was very overcast with dark clouds and it looked like it was going to rain.
"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 30-40 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 yesterday.
" Funnel clouds are caused by the up and down draughts that can occur within deep shower clouds called ***ulonimbus 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 is expected to fall across the region by the end of today (Monday).
Environment Agency chiefs say they expect between 15mm and 30mm of rain to fall on Tuesday 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.
Further showers are expected across the region on Wednesday.
Environment Agency spokesman, Paul Gainey, said he expected flood warnings to be issued over the coming days.
Mr Gainey said: "We will be making sure all of our flood defence schemes are working properly and checking culverts and gullies to ensure they are all clear.
"Our officers will be monitoring the situation and issuing flood alerts and warnings where necessary.
"There may be some disruption to travel due to the level of water on the roads and some minor routes may be affected."
North Somerset Council said the flood defence gates at Weston-super-Mare, installed as part of a £29 million flood defence project.
Some rain is forecast for Thursday morning but it should clear in the afternoon. Friday looks fairly wet but some drier, sunnier conditions should move in for Saturday. Temperatures look fairly mild throughout the week.