Many of you were surprised to see us on the front page of the Reading Evening Post on Wednesday 17 July
The story was so unusual it made the Daily Mail and The Times too! Mr Bish was interviewed by Radio Berkshire. Here is the article from the Reading Evening Post.
'Wizard of Oz' whirlwind hits girls' school in Whitley
Mini-whirlwind picked up a large metal shed in the grounds of Reading Girls’ School, lifted it three metres in the air, spun it round three times and dropped it
This metal shed was lifted three metres into the air and spund around by a whirlwind at Reading Girls' School
It was just like the Wizard of Oz, but not in Kansas, Toto – in Whitley.
A mini-whirlwind picked up a large metal shed in the grounds of Reading Girls’ School, lifted it three metres in the air, spun it round three times and dropped it.
The freak phenomenon, sparked by the hot weather, caused a sensation at the Northumberland Avenue school yesterday at 12.45pm, but could have been much worse.
Art and design teacher Nigel Bish said: “Fortunately there was hardly anyone outside at the time, but if it had happened at break or at lunch time there could have been a very nasty accident.
“Goodness knows what it weighs, but it is a very substantial metal shed.”
Mr Bish said: “We were in the classroom and the girls started screaming. We felt this really big breeze going through the side window of the art block.
“Everyone looked out and we saw the shed lift three metres high, right off the ground. It turned round three times and then dropped.”
He said you could hear a “grinding, creaking, jarring” sound as it lifted up.
He said: “It was as if it was in slow motion.”
Mr Bish, 47, added: “It was just like the Wizard of Oz. Something you wouldn’t really ever expect to see here. Bizarre.”
He told the girls to remain in the classroom, adding that the school grounds were not entirely empty at the time.
The judges for the Reading in Bloom Schools’ Challenge are due today and there were people outside weeding and tidying up the flower beds.
The pupils were then set the task of writing up their experience.
Nicole Anderson wrote: “It lifted up the green tin shed then all of a sudden it was above the small building and it swivelled and turned then dropped on to the bin then the bin fell over and all the rubbish scattered everywhere and the tin, green shed is dented and broken.”
Ambreen Farooq wrote: “A sudden breeze came from the corner of the art block and hit the shed. Everything flew out and everything was in the air. It felt like a tornado had happened. It was so cool, but so scary.”
Senior teaching fellow at the University of Reading’s department of meteorology Ross Reynolds said the phenomenon was a dust devil - common in Oklahoma or Arizona - and not a tornado.
He said the absence of dust in Whitley would make it more sensible to call it a whirlwind.
He said the two necessary ingredients were high temperatures and a light wind.
Mr Reynolds said whirlwinds could be caused by temperatures building up at ground level - sometimes caused by hot tarmac - or they could result from a breeze whipping round the corner of a building causing the air to rotate.
He said temperatures measured at the university yesterday were 27 degrees centigrade with winds of 10 mph or less.
He said: “These things are very local and can produce wind speeds of 45 mph.”
Mr Reynolds added: “I don’t know what the shed weighs, but there could have been a pretty nasty accident - it’s no joke.”