KAYAKERS enjoying a peaceful paddle on Olton Mere reservoir at the weekend were left shocked and shaken when a freak waterspout tornado struck – throwing them from their kayaks and pulling some of the vessels three feet in the air.
The rare phenomenon – which reached around 20-foot high and gave 11 alarmed kayakers an unplanned dip in the water – hit water on Saturday afternoon during Olton Sailing Club and Shirley Sea Cadets’ annual Rowathon.
Nobody was injured during the incident.
Simon Marland, chair of Shirley Sea Cadets, told The Observer: “We couldn’t believe what we were seeing.
“We were all thinking ‘what on earth is that’ – the majority of us hadn’t heard of such thing.
“It was a big shock for everyone, but people were more interested in the fact they’d seen such a rare phenomenon than being worried about their safety – our sailors have sailed in worse conditions than that!”
He added that news of the tornado has created a huge buzz for the club, with Facebook hits up and news interest from around the world – as far afield as China.
Photographer Donna Marland added: “It first caught my attention when all this water started rising.
“I presumed someone had chucked a stone in the water or a large object.
“But then the water started to spin and got bigger as it approached the kayaks.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, the spiral must have reached 20 feet high – it was quite amazing.”
A spokesperson from the MetOffice said this type of vortex – a cumulus vortex attached to a cumulus cloud – usually forms over a strongly heated surface.
“After looking at the pictures we can only presume that the vortex originated over the land and then moved out onto the reservoir,” they added.