Nature Video

By Katy Gill

Quelle surprise! It’s not often you spot a tornado in France.

But that’s exactly what Frédéric Hemart, 52, was able to capture from his window.

The Frenchman was woken up by a ferocious storm in Saint Jean Pla de Corts in southern France, and looked out the window to see a tornado beginning to form.

Grabbing his camera, he filmed as the storm slowly blew towards his town near the Spanish border, eventually only missing it by just over a mile.

The extremely strong winds tore up trees and damaged multiple houses in the Pyrenees-Orientals region of the country.

Frederic, aforeman for a medical packaging company, said: “I was at home with my wife. It was about 10 °C and the storm rumbled for some time.

“It woke me up at 8:30am and our region was placed on orange alert by the weather services because of a significant risk of thunderstorms.

“This type of weather is called a ‘Mediterranean episode’. Three to six times a year on average, violent stormy systems bring intense rain.

“There were lightning bolts coming from Spain with a moderate southerly wind.  After filming the lightning, I saw a formation of small clouds that were at low altitude in front of my house.

“At 9am it began to hail and the low clouds started to turn on themselves to form the whirlwind of the tornado which was about 200 yards from our housing estate.

“The tornado made a noise that I had never heard before, like a big vacuum. It was very impressive to see as this never happens in our region.

“The tornado started further south in the commune of Maureillas, about two miles from Saint Jean Pla de Corts, where there was significant material damage, damaged roofs, windows of broken houses, veranda roofs torn off, trees ripped out, power lines out of order, windshields of broken cars, damaged kindergartens, motorhomes and caravans overturned.

“After the tornado passed in front of us it went to Lac de Saint Jean where it tore up a lot of trees.”