Big twister takes Clarecastle by storm

CLARE’S first ever tornado struck ground somewhere between Clarecastle and Dromoland on Friday evening. Pictures (above) of the twister were captured by Rachel Fletcher around 7pm on Friday as she travelled southbound on the M18, close to Exit 12.
The pictures show a large funnel emerge from beneath a dark cloud and touch land at a point just off the motorway. Funnel clouds are created by unstable air flows and are relatively rare in Ireland. A funnel cloud becomes a tornado when it makes contact with the ground, something that is almost unheard of in Ireland.
The Irish Weather Online website published images of the tornado over the weekend but the Irish Met Office have been unable to confirm for sure that the tip of the funnel actually touched ground.
A Met Office forecaster told The Clare People yesterday that conditions were perfect for tornado formation in the Shannon area on Friday evening.
“I have checked the radar data from Friday evening and the low pressure front travelled up the Shannon Estuary between 6pm and 8pm on Friday evening. There were some heavy thunderstorms in the area and reports of very heavy rain, so all the ingredients were there for a tornado or funnel cloud,” he said.
“When a funnel cloud is spotted, we do take a lot of calls from the public but unfortunately there is little that we can do to confirm that a tornado has actually taken place. We can look at the data we have and let people know how favourable the conditions are for a funnel cloud at a certain time and place but not much more than that.
“We have had a number of reports of funnel clouds over the past few days. They are often caused by heavy rain and sometimes it doesn’t have to be windy for them to take place.”
Funnel clouds and tornadoes are the result of wind sheer – when winds at different levels in the atmosphere are moving in different directions. Unstable air flows, often caused by heavy rainfalls, can trigger the two airflows to interact with each other and form a funnel.
Heavy rainfall, particularly in the summer, can cause rapid cooling and heating of air, which causes air to move from one level of the atmosphere to another rapidly.


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