Suffolk school hit by tornado

STAFF at a Suffolk school have described the “violent episode” they witnessed when a tornado swept across the front of the main building yesterday afternoon.

Lizzie Parry

STAFF at a Suffolk school have described the “violent episode” they witnessed when a tornado swept across the front of the main building yesterday afternoon.

At about 2.30pm the Leiston area experienced a dramatic spell of high winds and torrential rain that culminated in a mini tornado that left a trail of destruction through areas of the town and neighbouring Knodishall.

At Leiston High School a window was blown out - crashing down into a courtyard in between classrooms - and bins were seen flying through the air in the car park.

Headmaster Ian Flintoff told of the “breathtaking” moment when the tornado passed across the car park at the front of the school.

“Very suddenly there was a major gust of wind in an extreme way I have not experienced before,” he said. “Trees were moving around quite violently and the building shook.

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“It caused damage to the roof, ripping off a sky light, and lifted bins off the ground. It was a very short lived but violent episode.

“The tornado came across the front of the school. I was talking to another teacher and it took my breath away, it stopped what we were doing, it was very eerie inside.

“It happened when school was in session so luckily there were no students about. It was really disturbing and lasted for about 30 seconds - no more than that. As a geographer I have seen it on the television but I have never experienced weather like it before.”

The school's site supervisor, Bryan Duncan, was forced to throw himself to the floor as he attempted to lock the front doors - which were violently slamming in the high winds.

He said: “I was in reception when it started to blow really hard. The front doors started to bang, I tried to lock them but they have to be closed in a certain order.

“I was trying to close them correctly but the pressure of the wind outside was so great I couldn't shut them.

“They flew out of my hands, I stepped back and they flew back towards me, they came back at me with such a force I thought they would carry on going, I thought the glass was going to shatter, I had to throw myself out of the way on to the floor. I have never been so scared in my life.”

The dramatic weather also caused serious damage to a bungalow further down the road in Knodishall.

Ray and Sandy Haines, of Snape Road, were planning on having the tree in their front garden removed before the force of nature offered a helping hand.

The tree was blown into the overhead electricity cable supplying their home and the sheer force of the gust of wind caused the chimney to be ripped off their home.

Mrs Haines said: “We watched it happen; we could see the wind getting up.

“We only moved in two weeks ago and we had already planned to have that tree taken down this week.

“We looked out the window and all of a sudden the tree just came down, the tornado came from behind the house and the tree fell onto the overhead cable which was attached to the chimney pulling it off the roof.

“The cable was hanging across the road and was a danger to the traffic because it was at head height for passing cars.

“It was just scary, very scary. We think ourselves lucky the tree fell that way and not onto the house.”

A spokesman for EDF Energy said the damage had only resulted in power being lost to one property.

“They will have a generator for a while, until the chimney can be safely repaired and then the line can be fixed,” he said,