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Supercell thunderstorm and tornado likely cause of ‘genuinely freaky’ Preston weather

Posted on - 28th December, 2023 - 9:12am | Author - | Posted in - Preston News, Preston weather
The kind of stormy skies we saw over Preston on Saturday evening Pic: Mark Woodward
Thunder over Preston

Residents in Preston and the surrounding area were left ‘freaked out’ by high winds and thunder last night.

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People reported hearing especially loud, extended claps of thunder coupled with particular strong, whirling winds. Similar weather was reported across much of the North West. A number of properties in Greater Manchester were damaged as a result of the weather.

The Met Office has attributed the weather to a ‘supercell thunderstorm’ and even said that areas may have seen a tornado.

Read more: Preston one of places best weathering house price downturn over last year

A spokesperson for the Met Office said: “Last night a supercell thunderstorm crossed Greater Manchester causing damage.

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“We know from our Dopplar radar that it had a strong rotating updraft. Whilst we don’t yet have surface data to confirm, the presence of these features suggests a tornado at the surface was likely.”

Preston, and most of the UK, was under a number of weather warnings yesterday issued by the Met Office in response to Storm Gerrit.

It is likely that the louder than usual thunder was caused by what is known as ‘inversion’.

The National Weather Service site said: “The temperature of the atmosphere affects the thunder sound you hear as well as how far away you can hear it. Sound waves move faster in warm air than they do in cool air. Typically, the air temperature decreases with height. When this occurs, thunder will normally have an audible range up to 10 miles (16 km).

“However, when the air temperature increases with height, called an inversion, sound waves are refracted (bent back toward the earth) as they move due to their faster motion in the warmer air. Normally, only the direct sound of thunder is heard. But refraction can add some additional sound, effectively amplifying the thunder and making it sound louder.

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“This is more common in the winter as thunderstorms develop in the warm air above a cooler surface air mass. If the lightning in these “elevated thunderstorms” remains above the inversion, then most of the thunder sound also remains above the inversion. However, much of the sound waves from cloud-to-ground strikes remain below the inversion giving thunder a much louder impact.”

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