(This blog post is really just a way for me to gather various links/videos regarding the event and for me to make a full record of what happened, apologies if you’re already fed up with hearing about it!)
By the end of Bank Holiday Monday afternoon (7 May 2012) we were all at home and I was working on my bike in the garage: I’d fitted new brake blocks and was about to go out for a road test. As this thought entered my head, I heard the rumble of thunder. Irritated that I might not be able to take the bike out, I looked outside.
Above the house opposite was a very dark cloud. The cloud appeared to be moving very quickly; this is probably because it was extremely low. With a second glance, it was clear that the cloud was rotating, which is not something I’d seen before. Within just a few seconds, hail started falling and the thunder and lightning continued. The wind, which had been very calm all day, suddely became extremely strong: the hailstones and other small stones/debris were lifted up and were thrown around in the wind. At the front of the house, our car parked on the driveway was bouncing gently on its suspension due to the extreme wind.
For about a minute or so, the winds were incredibly strong and hail was coming down, or rather flying sideways much of the time. Given how calm the weather had been just a minute before, this was rather unsettling.
We can see some large trees from the back of our house and they were bending over sideways: Sarah was convinced they were about to ‘snap’.
And then within a further minute, everything was quiet again. I could still see the twisting clouds just a short distance away and, given that the wind had dropped, I opened the back door and recorded a video of what I saw using my mobile phone. This is what I recorded:
One can see the rotating clouds and, although the video is far less impressive than what we were experiencing moments before, it does capture something which is rather rare in this country. At the time of posting these notes, the video had in excess of 5000 hits.
I immediately uploaded the video to YouTube and posted links on Twitter and Facebook. Sarah suggested shortly afterwards that I should email firstname.lastname@example.org too, since they might be interested.
In the immediate aftermath, there was a fair degree of chatter online (on Kidlington’s Facebook page particularly) about who had seen what and what damage had been caused: fences down, roof tiles dislodged, trees uprooted and so on. Someone from TORRO commented that this was almost certainly a tornado we’d experienced, given the nature of the weather system and the wind speeds/damage caused at ground level. Apparently, TORRO had been tracking the storm from the Taunton area earlier in the day.
Media coverage etc.
If the tornado itself was strange, things were about to get stranger…
In the early evening, I received a message to my YouTube account from the BBC enquiring about the video. I replied with my mobile phone number and someone from the BBC’s Multimedia Handling Centre phoned shortly afterwards. We discussed what had happened and I gave my permission for the video to be used online. I was also asked if I’d be happy to be contacted by any of the BBC news rooms about it: not expecting it to go any further, I agreed.
Within twenty minutes, I had a call from someone working at Radio 5 Live. They asked if I would be prepared to take part in a live chat later that evening on the 22:30 show. I said Yes.
At 22:30 I put Radio 5 Live on and began listening. I don’t normally listen to the radio, but I knew that Radio 5 Live was heavily sports-related and wasn’t surprised when the show spent the first 20+ minutes with a phone-in about Blackburn Rovers being relegated from the Premier League. At about 22:50 my phone rang and, after checking that I could hear the show over my phone OK, I was listening live and ready to go on air. I eventually went live at about 22:55, this is the recording:
After that I was rather buzzed and it was late: I don’t think I slept very well that night, after the (literal) whirlwind of that day.
The next morning, events took further unexpected steps. Just as I was about to leave for work, within 10 minutes of each other I had calls at home from the news desks at BBC Oxford and ITV Meridian. Ultimately, I agreed with both organisations to give TV interviews about the tornado: they would bring a TV crew to work and do the interviews there.
During a (not terribly productive!) morning at work, I fielded various emails/tweets from interested parties asking to use the video or to interview me about what happened. This included Yahoo UK news who, despite asking for permission to use the video, instead used a still from it: rather pointless, given that the whole point of the moving video is that you can see the cloud rotation.
I also discovered that the video was on the BBC web site from early in the morning: it was briefly in the Top Ten Most Watched. And a composite video including my clip with others was at Number One Most Watched for much of the morning.
Then the BBC arrived. We did the interview outside and, by the evening my two minutes of recorded footage had been edited to include just a short snippet, as follows:
I grabbed a quick lunch and then ITV arrived. This is the end result:
Both those local TV clips went out in the evening on Tuesday (8 May 2012): it was interesting to see all the other footage that surfaced about the same event.
And then the whirlwind, like its media coverage, had passed.
Initial BBC Online clip of my video – reporter told me later this “probably had tens of thousands of hits”.
Video report about tornado, including my footage and others
BBC Weather feature about the incident, featuring some clips from my video – this feature keeps my name on screen for rather too long, misattributing some others’ videos/pictures to me.
There were numerous other stories about this in the local and national press, web sites and so on. However, since they are many (and none of them include my video, interview or quotes), I’m not including them here!