A FAMILY came close to double tragedy when a tornado caused trees to fall on two homes – narrowly avoiding a toddler in his playpen.
Brenda Coughlan from Clonfert, Co Galway and her brother, Noel Kelly, both saw their homes badly damaged on Wednesday evening as a mini-tornado hit the area at 6.30pm.
Noel Kelly, his wife Mary and four children were in the mobile home in which they were temporarily living, while building an extension to the family home, when the freak winds struck.
He told of their shock after a tree crashed through the building just feet from where they were eating, and right beside the playpen where their one-year-old son Adam was playing.
"We were having our dinner. We heard the awful bang and then the noise. At the time I had no idea the wind was as bad as it was and then the tree came down," said Noel.
"The child was in the playpen right next to it. There were bits of the tree inside and you could see through the roof, he could have been killed.
"We just got everyone out as quick as we could. The mobile home is destroyed but it's a miracle we weren't killed," he added.
The family home was also damaged in the tornado, with the slates blown off the roof of the extension.
Just a short distance away, Noel's sister Brenda Coughlan also had a narrow escape after her sons Brendan (16) and eight-year-old Jack got caught in the severe winds.
"Myself and my husband Brendan were in the yard. My sons had come out of the house to tell us the electricity was gone and were going back home when they noticed the wind coming. Brendan grabbed the young fella and lay on top of him on the ground," explained Brenda.When the wind had passed and the two boys returned to their home, they discovered a large tree from the garden had fallen through the roof of the bungalow.
"If they had been closer to the house they could have been killed. There was a good bit of damage done. Then I rang my mother and heard about Noel's house.
"We are so lucky as a family. The man above was looking down on us," she said.
Around 150 homes were without electricity yesterday as a result of the severe weather, with houses in Clonfert in Galway and Banagher in Co Offaly worst effected.
Met Eireann issued a status orange rainfall warning for Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Wicklow, Cork, Tipperary and Waterford, with up to 70mm of rain expected.
A spokesperson for Met Eireann said there had been a number of reports of funnel clouds or mini-tornados over Ireland through the first days of October.
"The weather conditions at the time were typical of those that give rise to these meteorological phenomena – sudden, heavy downpours of rain with associated thundery activity," the spokesperson added.
But after days of rain, there will be some improvement over the weekend.
"It will be largely dry on Saturday, with a few showers in the coastal parts of the west – Limerick, Clare and Galway mostly," said Eoin Sherlock of Met Eireann.
There will be some decent bright spells on Saturday, and southwesterly winds will ensure it is a mild day, he added.
By Caroline Crawford