'Tornado' overturns caravan and damages buildings in Staffordshire as high winds batter UK

A tornado has appeared to overturn a caravan and leave buildings and vehicles damaged in northwest England, as strong winds batter much of the UK.

High winds and heavy showers have been sweeping across the England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with coastal areas experiencing gusts of up to 55mph.

Pictures showed an overturned caravan in St Giles Road, in the Staffordshire village of Knutton, with the conditions also leaving roofs, sheds, fencing and cars damaged.

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David Hemming said he was at work on Monday when the strong winds hit his home, pushing his caravan onto its side on his driveway and smashing it into his camper van.

"It was just one big gust of wind," he said. "I was at work, I was just leaving and I looked at the camera on the house before I left, and my caravan was on its side and had smashed into my van.

"There are two sheds gone at the back. It has destroyed all the fence panels. It was just 20 seconds and then that was it, it had gone."

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He added: "It must have been a tornado from all the damage it has done. It's just gone straight through the street."

The road has been cordoned off by Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

'Tiles flying everywhere'

Neighbour Michael Wearing said Mr Hemming's shed ended up in his back garden.

"It was definitely a tornado, without a shadow of a doubt," he said. "You heard it winding up, it sounded like a Hoover starting up."

Mr Wearing's front window was smashed by flying debris and his van windscreen is too damaged for him to be able to drive it.

"Someone has had a trampoline through their roof, there were tiles flying everywhere," he added.

'Particularly impactful winds'

The Met Office said it was not possible to verify if the strong gusts in Staffordshire were a tornado, but added the winds "had some potential" to create them.

Met Office spokesperson Stephen Dixon told Sky News: "The fronts moving southwards this morning had the potential for short-lived tornadoes to develop which could have caused impacts for some.

"Tornadoes do happen in the UK and are generally short-lived. Around 30 a year are reported in the UK, on average."

He added such events are normally not captured by radar imagery and can "only be assessed by looking at the evidence on the ground".

"Today, there have been some reports of some particularly impactful winds," he said.

The Met Office website defines a tornado as a "rapidly rotating column of air that reaches the base of a storm cloud and the Earth's surface".

Bridges, parks and attractions closed

Bridges, parks and National Trust sites across the UK were forced to close due to the windy conditions, amid warnings gusts could reach 45mph inland.

The M48 Severn Bridge was closed early on Monday in both directions as a result of the high winds.

In Yorkshire, the Humber Bridge was forced to close to certain vehicles, including motorhomes, cars with roof boxes, motorcycles and high-sided heavy goods vehicles.

Parks were shut across London including sections of Hampstead Heath, West Ham park and playgrounds in Regents Park, Greenwich Park and Hyde Park.

Kew Gardens announced it would not be opening on Monday due to "adverse weather conditions".

Tourist attractions including parts of Dover Castle and Ainsdale Beach in Southport were also forced to close.

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Drier conditions set to move in

The Met Office's yellow warning for wind - covering the whole of Northern Ireland, Wales and England as far north as Cumbria - is in place until 10pm on Monday.

Showers are expected across many areas until Friday before drier conditions are set to move in, according to forecasters.

Mr Dixon said: "By the time we get to the weekend, there's a signal for higher pressure to build in from the southwest which would settle things down in terms of rainfall totals."

It comes after some parts of the UK experienced unusually warm temperatures in recent days, with 21.8C (71.2F) recorded in Writtle, Essex, on Saturday.