South East Wales

Abercynon Tornado of 1913 is remembered with service

Some buildings collapsed completely
Image caption Some buildings collapsed completely in the short but devastating storm

A church service marks the centenary of a massive storm which battered the south Wales valleys in 1913 with winds of up to 160mph.

At least three people died and more than a hundred people were injured when the Abercynon Tornado struck an area from Edwardsville to Cilfynydd.

Around a thousand homes were damaged, with the clean-up costs exceeding £40,000 - over £3m in today's prices.

The victims included the captain of a local football club.

Carol Quick, who lives on one of the streets torn apart, says it is a story which has been passed down the generations.

"My father was only 13 at the time, so I suppose it seemed even more exciting to him, but he could recall every detail of it when we were growing up.

"The noise was apparently like a steam train coming down the street. It was rare enough to see cars on the road in those days, but to see them flying through the air..."

She added that whilst the tornado itself lasted just a minute or two, it was a long time before anyone dared venture outside.

But when they did, the photographs of the damage they captured were truly spectacular.

The storm responsible began over Devon in the mid-afternoon, as warm air from the Mediterranean struck a cold front blowing down from Iceland.

By the time it caused the damage in Wales, it is estimated the storm reached the level of T6 on the scale produced by the present day Tornado and Storm Research Organisation (TORRO).

Image caption The roofs of whole terraces of homes were ripped off

Retired civil servant W A Willock noted in his diary that his car journey near Exeter had been interrupted by "very black cloud from which…I do not think I ever saw such rain out of the tropics".

Despite this there were no reports of damage on the south side of the Bristol Channel.

Yet it was a very different story when the storm made landfall near Llantrisant, and the winds became cyclonic as they were funnelled up the valleys.

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Media captionSusan Edwards of the Glamorgan Archive says men were literally swept off their feet

Whilst official records only record slight damage to out-buildings and light structures at Llantwit Fardre, by the time it reached Edwardsville, less than five miles away, Mr B P Evans, the headmaster at the local senior boys' school, said: "The panes of our windows were broken by stones, tiles, slates, dried cement, and splintered timber.

"The missiles broke the Venetian blinds and struck the opposite walls. We made for the rear of the house, but all the windows were being bombarded also by small material and corrugated iron sheets.

"We could distinctly hear the chimney pots fall on the roof, and the material sliding off being dashed on the pavement and doorstep.

"After this crash had ceased (this only lasted from 60 to 90 seconds), rain fell in torrents.

Image caption The clean-up costs exceeded £40,000; over £3m in today's prices

"The lightning set fire to the tar which had been sprayed some three weeks previously on the main Cardiff and Merthyr road, some 12 yards from our house door. A distinct smell of sulphur pervaded the air."

A Met Office investigation concluded that the geography of the south Wales Valleys, combined with a sudden one percent fall in barometric pressure was responsible for the anti-clockwise tornado.

Amongst the three fatalities was local celebrity C Woolford, the right-back and captain of the Ton Pentre football club.

The victims were being remembered in a special service in Edwardsville on Sunday evening.

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