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A blown off roof at a house in Los Iros caused by a tornado, yesterday.

A tornado struck the small agricultural community of Los Iros yesterday afternoon.

Structures along R.E. Road were the most affected, with at least 22 buildings damaged due to partial or total roofs blown off, with seven structures destroyed and four vehicles damaged.

According to activist Victor Roberts, one of the first people on the ground following the tornado, “The residents started to hear a sound coming from heaven like a tractor coming down to earth. They said they saw house roofs moving with galvanize flying, falling about a mile and a quarter away. Trees were uprooted, and whole homes were destroyed, flattened.”

Roberts said it was difficult to navigate the area due to several downed utility poles and live power lines.

Ramesh Bhagwandeen, who lived to tell the tale, recounted, “There was a hard breeze spinning that damaged everything inside of here (R.E. Road). Whole houses gone. Roofs gone. Cars damaged. Vehicles damaged. Crops damaged. Everything damaged inside of here.”

Residents scampered for safety as strong winds associated with the uncommon tornado torn across the farmlands. Some even resorted to diving under vehicles, according to Roberts.

Dana O’Neil-Gervais, councillor for Palo Seco, which covers a portion of Los Iros, said she was still doing assessments.

She said, “I’m still visiting some residents, and some roofs were blown off; therefore, the rain would have soaked belongings, but thus far, the corporation, we would have supplied them with tarpaulins and mattresses.”

Disaster Management Unit Coordinator for the area, councillor Denzil Roopchand also responded to the incident shortly after 3 pm.

He met a scene of destruction. “I saw damaged trees, the bush was ‘wrangled’ up, and galvanise was on the trees and power lines. Mostly roofs were blown off and walls of homes damaged.” he said.

Though activist Victor Roberts gave a number as high as 22 structures, Roopchand explained in his initial and partial assessment. He met six damaged homes where people lived and at least four uninhabited structures damaged or collapsed.

Additional assistance is on the way to Los Iros.

Elroy Julien, the chief executive officer of the National Commission for Self Help Limited, said he and his team would head to Los Iros at 9 am today.

Tornadoes and Trinidad

Until 2019, the country experienced a confirmed tornado once every decade, with the 2009 Caroni Plains tornado then the 2019 Cunupia Tornado the last the pattern held.

However, since 2019, the country has now recorded five confirmed tornado events: 2019 Cunupia and Port-of-Spain tornadoes, the 2020 Chase Village and D’Abadie tornadoes, and now, the 2021 Los Iros event.

Generally, these events occur from August through October when the country experiences light winds, high atmospheric moisture, and a favourable wind profile through the atmosphere to allow for thunderstorms to develop a rotating updraft that makes its way to the ground. This setup generally occurs following the passages of tropical cyclones north of the country or with tropical waves.

In the last three days, three tornadic events occurred in the country: a waterspout spotted near Vessigny Beach and a funnel cloud spotted across Caroni, both on August 14 with a tornado in Los Iros on August 16.

There is no conclusive evidence that says these tornadic events are linked to climate change at this time. Climatologists have already linked climate change to an increase in frequency in stronger, localised showers and thunderstorms already affecting Trinidad. However, with the widespread use of camera phones and the internet, vastly improving the reporting of inclement weather, may allow us to pick up reports of funnel clouds, waterspouts, and tornadoes that were already occurring. Still, a warmer atmosphere allows for more instability and stronger daytime heating, leading to these stronger thunderstorms potentially producing tornadic events during the afternoon.