Three weeks ago, a pair of tornadoes ripped through part of the Algarve and immediately occupied front pages of newspapers and blogs all over the nation.
I think the news missed one. There were three.
While driving to Pilates a couple of weeks ago, I noticed a section of road with a lot of tree damage. It’s on the N270 between Loulé and São Brás de Alportel, just east of the turnoff to Gorjões and Santa Barbara de Nexe.
The first few times I drove past, I thought, “Wow, what happened here?” It looked like a really inept road crew had come through to trim branches, but forgot their power tools. Or it could have been the scene of a truly shocking traffic accident involving at least one very large truck and lots of flying heavy debris…but I think I’d have heard about that.
The next time I passed, I drove slower, realized just how extensive the damage was, and developed a strong suspicion as to what had caused it. Today I decided it was time for a closer look. On my way back from class, I pulled off the road and did a walking survey.
For a couple of hundred meters of highway, the trees on both sides of the road are heavily, messily damaged. Huge branches have been torn off, leaving massive white scars and splintered trunks behind. Several trees were snapped completely in half, and we’re talking older fruit trees with substantial trunks. Branches are down everywhere, and there isn’t a clean cut in the place. Every bit of damage looks like a giant hand grabbed the branch or tree and twisted until it ripped and splintered apart.
There is only one thing I can think of that could cause this kind of damage pattern: wind. And not just a sudden, strong gust of wind, either, because that would have manifested in some directional clues.
This mess looks exactly like a small tornado touched down, moved a few hundred meters, and then dissipated before it could travel any farther. Since it was in an area without houses or human construction other than the highway, it didn’t get any attention and probably had no witnesses. But the evidence it left behind is fairly conclusive.
Which makes me wonder: How many others were there? That Friday was a day-long thunderstorm event, with strong squalls moving over in regular succession. If they spun off small tornadoes that ripped up trees in unpopulated areas, nobody will ever hear about them other than the people who live or farm nearby and happen to walk through the damaged spots.
I think I’ll be taking Algarvean thunderstorms a bit more seriously these days.
(The above photo is of tornado damage in Lagoa, from the Algarve Resident. I didn’t have my camera with me today, but that kind of splintery mess is what the trees on the N270 look like.)
TOTALLY UNRELATED NOTE: On a whim, I entered this blog in a competition for Best Expat Blog in Portugal, a contest judged partly by content and partly by reader reviews. Since the other blogs in the competition didn’t have much in the way of reviews, I just asked a few of my regular commenters to participate.
But now there are suddenly more blogs involved, and they’ve been advertising, and have gotten far more reviews. It’s time to up the game!
If you’d like to leave a kind word, please check out my page on the Expats Blog. The winners will be announced tomorrow, so I’ve only got until 10:00 GMT on 7 December to get more reviews up. Thanks in advance for any blog love.