SHOCKED Jeremy Earley could not believe his eyes when he saw what appeared to be a tornado off the coast of Hartlepool.
Mr Earley spotted the unusual sight as he left his hotel in Seaton Carew yesterday morning.
He whipped out his camera phone and snapped what looked like a twister ominously hovering a few miles away on the horizon.
But any fears that the town was to be hit by a twisting trail of destruction abated when weather experts said it was probably just heavy rain.
Mr Earley, 50, who was in Hartlepool on business, told the Mail: “I came out of my hotel and was making some phone calls in my car and looked across and saw it.
“There was other people around, but nobody seemed to notice it.
“It was fairly still. I watched it for about five minutes. I wanted to know if it was going to come inland, but it didn’t.”
Mr Earley, who works for a business advertising firm in Blackpool, showed the picture to customers when he popped into a local cafe.
He added: “I said ‘have a look at this’ and they were mesmerised.”
But agencies including the HM Coastguard and Hartlepool Coastwatch did not receive any reports of the sighting or tornados.
A spokesman for the Met Office said: “It’s difficult to provide a definitive answer from a single picture, but having taken a look our opinion is that it is not a water spout, the name for a tornado at sea. Water spouts are not usually as vertical as the column seen in the picture.
“Also, in the picture there is rain to the left of the column. If it were a water spout, that rain would be sucked in by the vortex of air.
“It is far more likely that this is heavy rain or hail. This is backed up by radar images, which show there were some intense spots of rain just off the coast in the Hartlepool area.”
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