mylondon– Residents of Wilmington Gardens in Barking have reported feeling “terrified” after strong, tornado-like winds ripped through the street and those adjacent last night.
Streets including Shirley Gardens, Hulse Avenue and Wilmington Gardens have seen significant damage after the freak weather hit around 7pm last night, with roof tiles being ripped down and blown through windows, walls crushed by winds and debris destroying car windscreens.
One man saw his entire garden wall destroyed, while another described how his children were out playing on their trampoline mere moments before it was lifted up and flung away by the wind.
Looking around at the destruction today, it’s incredible that nobody was hurt in the storm
“It was terrifying. We were absolutely terrified,” said Sandra Shelton, 61, whose garden and roof were severely damaged during the storm.
“It was about 6.55pm, I was in the conservatory and I noticed the leaves blowing around. Then I saw paper twisting in the wind, and all of a sudden it hit.
“There were tiles everywhere, debris everywhere. It only lasted about five or ten minutes, and we stood in the hallway because we heard that was the best thing to do to stay safe.”
Sandra’s roof has now got a hole in it and is being urgently repaired by local roofers who were on the scene to help this morning.
Her garden fence and shrubbery were completely destroyed by a tree from her neighbour two doors down – a tree which was ripped up by the wind and lifted over several fences before landing on top of her garden.
She has a large pond in her back garden full of beloved Koi carp, all of which were thankfully unharmed.
One resident of Wilmington Gardens, who did not want to be named, said she couldn’t stop thinking about what might have happened if she or her children were out and about at the time the storm hit.
Gurpal, 27, was helping builders collect the rubble from his destroyed garden wall this morning. He said he was in the house when the storm hit, and ran to the middle of his house to hide after he saw debris smashing through his neighbours’ windows and a trampoline flying overhead.
He described the phenomenon as being “like a hand came from the sky and grabbed everything”.
The trampoline in question belonged to Mizanur Rahman, a dad who lives in Wilmington Gardens. It was also Mizanur’s tree that snapped in half and was flung across neighbouring gardens.
He said that his children, aged 6 and 9, had been out playing on the trampoline when the storm hit.
“I was trying to get them to come inside because I saw the leaves acting strangely, it reminded me of the tornadoes we would have in Bangladesh,” he said.
“They wouldn’t come in, they just wanted to play, but eventually I got them to come in and it was just in time – as soon as they got in the house the whole thing lifted up and flew through the air, the trampoline went at least a few houses down.
Recalling what it was like during the peak of the storm, he continued: “We hid in the living room because I knew to hide where load bearing beams are in case the house collapses.
“There were slates from the roof flying into the house, it was raining slates.
Get London’s biggest stories straight in your inbox
Every day we’ll send you a free email at around 12pm with 12 stories to keep you entertained, informed and uplifted. It’s the perfect lunchtime read.
The MyLondon team tells London stories for Londoners. Our 45 journalists cover all the news you need – from City Hall to your local streets.
Never miss a moment by signing up to The 12 newsletter here.
“The stones off the fronts of the houses were flying around too, it was almost like hailstones.”
The clean-up operation continues in Barking this afternoon as builders, roofers, Barking and Dagenham council staff and residents come together to help.
One roofer, Jas Grewal, who has been working in Barking for decades said that he was fixing people’s roofs at cost value to help out the community.
As yet, there’s little explanation as to what caused the tornado-like storm last night.
Craig Snell, a forecaster for the Met Office, told MyLondon: “We can’t confirm whether it was a tornado, sometimes thunderstorms can produce very strong wings and they can cause significant damage.
“Tornadoes are a very rare occasion in the UK.
“Regarding yesterday, we’ve not seen any real images of a funnel cloud. If a tornado doesn’t reach the ground it’s called a funnel cloud.”
The Met Office are now investigating the storm with researchers analysing data and pictures to determine if it can, in fact, be described as a tornado.