Suspected tornado splits ancient oak tree

Oak tree
Image caption,The tree which has stood for 150 years is now being assessed for safety

A 150-year-old tree has been “split in half” by what was believed to have been a tornado in east Devon.

Simon West, the tree’s owner, said he was inside his house in Tipton St John, near Sidmouth, when he heard rain followed by an “enormous cracking sound” on Saturday evening.

Part of the tree fell on a driveway and knocked down a telegraph pole, which was replaced on Sunday.

A yellow wind warning, external was put in place by the Met Office for Devon and the wider south west region until 23:59 (GMT) on Sunday.

Split oak tree
Image caption,The tree was hit while it was dark

Several other trees reportedly fell in the area at Tipton St John near Sidmouth following the weather event.

The Tornado and Storm Research Organisation (TORRO) posted on X, external on Sunday: “Whilst the maximum intensity is still being assessed TORRO can confirm based on a site investigation that Venn Ottery & Tipton St John were hit by a tornado yesterday afternoon.”

Mr West told the BBC: “It was extremely strong wind… Sufficient to rip a 150-year-old oak tree in half.”

He added: “We heard the enormous creaking and cracking sound of the tree falling apart, followed by taking out all of our electricity.”

Sections of tree trunk on the ground
Image caption,Part of the tree fell on a driveway and had to be chopped up and cleared

Mr West, who set up a reforestation charity, external with his wife in Kenya seven years ago, said the tree supports “over 200 species of animals directly and over 2,000 species indirectly”.

He added: “I understand quite a few have come down, smaller ones, bigger ones, and it’s quite devastating when we lose trees like that.”

The pair vowed to replace the tree and said the charity would also continue to plant more in Kenya.

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