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Saturday, 26 October, 2002, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Mini tornado hits town
Umbrellas
Met Office has issued a severe weather warning
A freak whirlwind has damaged more than a hundred buildings in the Hampshire town of Portchester, as the rest of the UK braces for gales.

The mini tornado ripped roofs off garages, flattened garden walls and stripped tiles off the top of many homes, a fire brigade spokesman said.

The incident at 1530 BST on Friday came as parts of the UK were gearing up for driving rain and storm force winds this weekend.

Flood information
Call Floodline on 0845 988 1188
An entire garage was lifted off the ground for a few moments during the brief storm, according to Hampshire Fire Service.

Assistant divisional officer Roger Cole said: "It certainly was a very strong wind so I believe it was a mini tornado that went through the upper reaches of Portchester.

"Occasionally you will see a tornado spring up around here but not very often and you could never tell where one is going to happen next.

"Some of these winds even picked up a garage and put it down on its foundations again, moving it along an inch."

Elsewhere, weather experts are expecting gales of up to 80mph to sweep across southern England, Wales and Northern Ireland overnight on Saturday.

The BBC Weather Centre said it was expecting prolonged rain in central and northern areas, with the south suffering from heavy, squally showers.

The far north will probably stay largely dry.

Some of winds could be strong enough to cause structural damage to buildings or blow down trees.

Higher ground

A stormy day is expected on Sunday with heavy spells of rain and damaging winds, especially across central and southern England.

Snow is forecast across higher ground in Scotland ahead of the predicted rain.

The bad weather is being caused by an intense depression crossing the north of England, generating rain, as well as high winds on its southern and western flanks.

A stricken Russian freighter had to be escorted by a rescue helicopter and two lifeboats as it struggled to port in Torbay off the south coast.

The Cypriot-registered Bothnia Stone had been listing about 20 degrees in the poor weather and had had to jettison 1,500 cubic metres of timber.

Mayday call

Roger Brimacombe, watch manager at Brixham Coastguard, said: "The French Coastguard are warning shipping of the dangers posed by the timber, and our colleagues in Falmouth Coastguard are also making similar warning broadcasts in their area."

The ship had issued a mayday call at 2150 BST on Friday, saying the ship's engines had stopped after being flooded with sea water 25 miles south of Start Point, Devon.

South-westerly winds were force nine, making the sea extremely rough with a forecast for high winds throughout the rest of the weekend.

Strong winds also forced the cancellation of a passenger ferry service from Harwich, Essex, to the Hook of Holland on Saturday morning.

The BBC weather centre said the strongest of the winds should not persist into Monday, but debris could make travel difficult.

See also:

22 Oct 02 | Scotland
22 Oct 02 | N Ireland
08 Sep 02 | Scotland
26 Oct 02 | Scotland
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