[Article updated on October 24 at 14:10 with further details of the damage in Eure.]
Several houses have been destroyed in villages in Hauts-de-France and Normandy, as two mini tornadoes hit the area during storms yesterday (October 23).
In Pas-de-Calais, firefighters reported that there had been a “huge meteorological phenomenon centred on the commune of Bihucourt in particular,” but also on Ervillers and Hendecourt-lès-Cagnicourt.
The episode brought “violent winds” and “tornado-type” gusts to Bihucourt. One person sustained minor injuries.
Some 150 residents – around half of the population – had to be evacuated and many will not be able to return to their homes for some time, trees and overhead cables fell and some houses collapsed completely. Tiles were torn from the church roof and inside chairs were broken and the stoup was knocked to the ground.
TORNADE confirmée ! Première vidéo du phénomène impactant la commune de Buhicourt dans le Pas-De-Calais. D'importants dégâts sont signalés. #France #orages #Tornade— Nahel Belgherze (@WxNB_) October 23, 2022
Credit: Robin G. pic.twitter.com/89wAGa15w2
Other buildings also had their roofs ripped off and almost all of them suffered some damage.
"It lasted for 10 seconds [...] All of a sudden, we saw the clouds begin to swirl," Benoît-Vincent Caille, the village's mayor, told BFMTV.
One resident said that the tornado felt like "a bomb" exploding as it ripped off the roof of his house, but "the most important thing is that we are alive".
A neighbouring house narrowly escaped being hit by a large willow tree which fell when nearby scaffolding crashed down into it.
Another resident said that when he looked outside he could see dustbins and tiles flying in the air, and the branches snapping off his neighbour's tree.
Jean-Jacques Cottel, mayor of Bapaume, which is situated near Bihucourt, said that Météo France “was announcing some storms but not this tornado. We were taken completely unawares.
Imposante supercellule tornadique sur le sud du Pas-de-Calais ce dimanche 23 octobre, vue par son flanc oriental depuis le département du #Nord, à l'heure où la #tornade frappait #Bihucourt. Éclairs incessants et mammatus au sud du mésocyclone (à gauche sur la photo). © Keraunos pic.twitter.com/ENxu4SyRQx— Keraunos (@KeraunosObs) October 23, 2022
“We could not believe our eyes [...] the village was destroyed. It was a very localised phenomenon.
“Nearly two thirds of the houses have been destroyed. We saw people in complete disarray, distress, but also calm. The situation was surreal, apocalyptic.”
Around half of the streets in the village are currently impassable because they are covered in tiles, bricks and wood.
#Intempéries François-Xavier Bieuville, sous-préfet de #Douai, s'est rendu ce soir à Masny et Erchin, en présence des maires et du @Sdis59, pour assurer la direction des opérations. A cette occasion, il a remercié l'ensemble des services et partenaires mobilisés. pic.twitter.com/ggQy2NyGWW— Préfecture de la région Hauts-de-France et du Nord (@prefet59) October 23, 2022
Over in Conty, near Amiens (Somme), “several houses and pieces of infrastructure have been damaged,” the commune said, adding that in Ô-de-Selle, “around 60 buildings” were affected.
⚠️ De nouvelles images publiées sur Facebook montrent des dégâts considérables sur la commune de Conty dans le département de la Somme. Une possible #tornade serait à l'origine de ces destructions. Terrible après-midi dans les Hauts-de-France.— Nahel Belgherze (@WxNB_) October 23, 2022
Credit: Jacky Demarcy pic.twitter.com/kOY6K4KXaL
No one was hurt but around ten households have had to leave their homes and tens of people have experienced power cuts.
Somme and Pas-de-Calais had been placed on a yellow alert for storms yesterday, but such a violent episode had not been predicted.
In Eure, several roofs were ripped off by storms, especially in Pont-Audemer-Beuzeville, where firefighters attended around 30 incidents. Some 3,000 homes were also without electricity overnight, with work to resolve the issue continuing this morning.
Wind gusts of up to 136km/h were recorded in Beuzeville, to the south east of Honfleur.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has expressed his “solidarity with the residents of the affected communes”.
L'Est et le Nord de la France ont subi de lourds orages. Plusieurs communes du Pas-de-Calais touchées par une tornade, provoquant d'importants dégâts. Violentes intempéries dans la Somme.— Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) October 23, 2022
Solidarité avec les habitants des communes touchées. @Prefet62 et @prefet80 sont sur place.