Storm slams bases in U.K.
June 17, 2009
RAF MILDENHALL, England — A brief yet fierce summer storm roared its way across eastern England on Monday afternoon, subjecting Air Force communities here to thunder, lightning and a good old American-style funnel cloud.
Representatives for RAFs Lakenheath and Mildenhall, home to roughly 6,800 airmen, reported damages from the storm, which included a funnel cloud that formed at about 4:10 p.m. over the Mildenhall runway. Lakenheath spokesman Staff Sgt. Nathan Gallahan said some buildings sustained damage from flooding and hail but that the Air Force was still assessing the extent and cost of that damage.
One flight was diverted at Mildenhall because of the storm, base spokesman Master Sgt. Charles Tubbs said.
No injuries were reported at either base.
The storm lasted for about three hours Monday afternoon, but it was especially intense around the time the funnel cloud formed, when nearly an inch of rain fell in just 30 minutes, according to Master Sgt. Fambro Knight of Mildenhall’s 100th Operational Support Squadron.
"Basically we had a weak area of low pressure moving across the British Isles," he said. "Ahead of it was warm, moist air coming up out of France."
"The combination of the two gave us enough instability to generate the moderate thunderstorms," Knight said.
The base sounded a tornado warning two minutes after the funnel cloud was spotted over the Mildenhall runway, he said.
Funnel clouds are rare in England, Knight said, with only about 30 such clouds or tornadoes appearing per year.
Despite the storm’s fierce facade, Knight said the winds weren’t that severe and that this is probably not an omen of what’s to come this British summer.
"We’re looking at a pretty typical English summer, weather-wise," Knight said. "As far as getting any more cracking thunderstorms like yesterday, the odds are we probably won’t. It’s rare to get one that intense."