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Birmingham Tornado: 14th June 1931

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  • Location: Irlam
  • Location: Irlam

Mid June 1931 was very turbulent with severe thunderstorms breaking out over many parts bringing large hail, squally wind, torrential rain and local flooding. One such thunderstorm struck Birmingham bringing a tornado which cause a death and damage.

The tornado first struck at about 2.20pm in the Sparkhill district of the city along a track varying from 200 to 800 yeards wide passing through Greet, Small Heath and Bordesley in a NEly direction. The track was about 12 miles long.

Some eye witness accounts

Neville Hall of Hall Green, Birmingham

"Here in Bromyard Rd at about 3.50pm, the rain increased and at 4 o'clock was coming down in torrents. About 3 minutes later we heard a howl as wind makes and immediately the air as full of twigs, leaves and small branches. Four little girls coming home from Sunday school were blown flat and shot along the wet pavement like bits of paper. My motorcycle and sidecar standing in the gutter was turned upside down. All our garden fences were flattened."

J.R.Sayers of Hall Green

"About 4pm, a curious lull in the great black thunderstorm then raging caused me instinctively to run to the window facing north and I was just in time to see some 20ft high trees shudder and then all bow to the ground, one immediately in front of me breaking off at the root. Instantly the air appeared full of objects, great and small flying in a northerly direction, broken vegetation, tiles, masonry and my neighbour's garage roof included...I estimate that the duration of this great blast of air was 15 to 20 seconds."

Charles Duval, Small Heath

"I happened to be looking at the sky at the moment of the tornado's arrival here and saw a small black cloud travelling from the south at a terrific speed. I called my wife to see it and within a few seconds the wind arrived. The wind stopped my clock at 4.20pm, as with the first gust the front door blown open and it took three f us to close it."

E. Dwyer, Small Heath

"The whirlwind made its approach, it was similiar to the noise of six aeroplanes in the air together and was a great black cloud, rolling an twisting appearance."

F. Smith of Sparkhill

"The tornado appeared from a dense mass of grey clouds..all outlying clouds rushing to one spot. This mass of cloud suddenly began to rush across the sky and formulated a funnel which hung suspended from the mass and reached the housetops. At the same time all sorts of missliles flew upwards towards it. It rushed across faster than I have evere seen clouds move before."




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  • Location: Rossland BC Canada
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada

So I gather this track was a little to the east of the July 28, 2005 tornado track in south Brum, but not very far away from it really, given the infrequency of tornados of this strength in the UK (both seem like F2 from their damage).

I wonder if the air coming over the hills to the southwest of Birmingham (the Lickey Hills, the southwest district of the city known as Rednal rises up several hundred feet and ends with these hills in the form of a large urban park) plays a role in this anomaly, perhaps interacting with the urban heating effect to further destabilize the air in certain situations. Or perhaps this topography encourages greater contrasts to develop as storms develop along boundaries.

Another urban area that seems somewhat more prone to tornadic winds in the UK is the northern half of greater London, which if you ignored the southern half would resemble Birmingham in general terms of terrain and urban expanse (although far greater of course).

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