CONCERNED residents in Portland and Weymouth thought they were being hit by a tornado during in a dramatic thunderstorm.

But it turned out to be a very rare roll cloud – which had broken away from a thunderstorm at around 7.30pm on Friday night.

Storm Wallace, 26, of Portland, was driving home when she saw the dramatic cloud gain speed above Portland Road in Weymouth and stopped to take a photo.

She said: “It was really unusual and spinning very fast – I’ve never seen anything like it, I really did think it was a tornado or something.”

Wyke Regis resident Peter Minster also was transfixed by the tornado-looking cloud and went outside to take photos of it gathering speed over Portland and moving across the Shambles towards Weymouth Bay.

He said: “Prior to the thunderstorm around teatime, I noticed these unusual clouds developing high above Portland.

“They were moving extremely fast from Portland Bill towards Weymouth Bay.

“Initially, I thought they were similar to a mini-tornado or waterspout, however, I believe these are actually funnel clouds.”

Further along the coast in Bournemouth a hotelier reported outside furniture flaying past the windows and two-foot-high waves in the swimming pool as the cloud moved inland.

The powerful winds tore off sections of the roof and damaged trees.

Met office forecaster Michael Lawrence told the Echo: “It was a roll cloud. It’s a relatively rare, low-level, horizontal, tube shaped cloud that’s completely detached from the base of a thunder cloud.

“It’s most frequently observed on the leading edge of thunderstorms. The cloud rotates about its horizontal axis. They are not tornadoes.

“It’s a very rare sight – I’ve certainly never seen one.”

He said that the Met Office received a ‘significant number’ of calls from concerned residents in and around Portland asking if it was a tornado.