Tornado expert investigates freak weather in Limerick town

Aine Fitzgerald


Aine Fitzgerald

Calm after the storm: Jason O'Keeffe, Martin Moloney, John Sheehan, Roisin Howard, Aisling Mulqueen, Anthony Burchill, Izabela Wismieoka, Casey Lynch, Joe Hay, Ber Gammell, Ryans Supervalu Kilmallock, Marie Wall, barber, Derek Hackett,  Arthur McDonagh, and Ronan Dempsey following the clean-up on Sarsfield Street. Picture: Brendan Gleeson
A SPECIALIST in the area of tornados is carrying out research into last week’s freak weather conditions in Kilmallock which saw three people taken to hospital and caused tens of thousands of euro worth of damage.

A SPECIALIST in the area of tornados is carrying out research into last week’s freak weather conditions in Kilmallock which saw three people taken to hospital and caused tens of thousands of euro worth of damage.

While a huge community effort has ensured that there is little evidence of the destruction which was caused when a so-called mini-tornado tore through the town, locals remain baffled this week by the dramatic scenes.

“It was astonishing,” recalled Marie Wall of Kenny’s Barber Shop on Sarsfield Street in the town.

“There was a kind of fog first and I said to one of the customer’s ‘look out the window – doesn’t that look very, very strange,’ and he said ‘gosh yeah’.

“Then, all of a sudden, the only way I can describe the noise is like beer barrels being delivered - banging and crashing. There was wind and rain, we saw pieces of wood, plastic, and all the slates from the roof of Cregg’s shop flying by the window.”`

At around 3pm, raging winds swept through the town’s main street ripping the roof off a disused shop known as Cregg’s.

Two people sitting in a car parked across the street from the shop had a narrow escape as debris from the roof crumbled down on their vehicle.

Further down the street, a galvanised shed was lifted from a back garden and carried by the winds onto the main street, knocking two chimneys in its path. A woman who was walking on Sarsfield Street at the time was struck on the back with pieces of debris. The woman, along with two archaeologists who were working in Cregg’s shop at the time, were taken to hospital with minor injuries.

Dr John Tyrrell who works in the area of tornado research with the department of geography at UCC contacted the Limerick Leader having read the stories published in relation to the event.

“I have been researching tornadoes for many years while at UCC and at the moment I am trying to put together the details of the events of December 18,” explained Dr Tyrrell who is seeking further information in relation to the event.

The initial report of the incident, he explained, came through on the TORRO network.

“TORRO is a Tornado Research Organisation and I happen to be on its executive and the Irish coordinator,” Dr Tyrrell continued.

“Quite a few highly localised damage reports, due to violent wind, are received from time to time, some of them suspected tornadoes.

“These always have to be checked out because there can be a variety of causes for such concentrated damage, which have to be eliminated. That’s what the investigations in the Kilmallock case are about. This means every bit of detail about the damage is an important clue and is very welcome,” he said.

Meanwhile, local business people and the emergency services have been commended for their quick response in the aftermath of last Wednesday’s violent storm.

Twenty fire officers from Kilmallock and Rathkeale attended the scene.

“There was a fantastic community effort by all the business people to try and clear it all up,” said Marie Wall.

“People went out with brushes to clean up the street. The fire brigade came and took it over. They were still hosing the place down, brushing and scrubbing well into the night, making sure that everything was all right. The lads who are working on the extension at Ryan’s SuperValu are doing a lot of the repair work. It is a real community effort.”

Last Thursday and Friday, work was carried out on Cregg’s shop to ensure that it structurally safe as the severe weather continues.

Repair works continue further down the street.

“The canopy of Natalie’s café was ripped off. They erected a canopy because there was a bit of water getting in and they had to make it water tight for her,” Marie explained.

While the cost of the damage will run into tens of thousands of euro, according to Marie, it could have been a lot worse.

“One man had come in at the time with his small fellow to get a haircut. He said ‘can I run out, I can’t get in contact with my wife and I’m nearly certain she parked in front of SuperValu’. Thanks be to God she had moved the car to collect the child from school,” she said.

Meanwhile, anyone with any details which they think may be relevant to Dr Tyrrell’s research can email him at