Homes were flooded, streets turned into rivers and properties were set on fire by lightning strikes as Britain’s heatwave was interrupted today by dramatic thunderstorms and a month’s worth of rain in just three hours.
Scotland was hit by 17,000 lightning strikes in just 12 hours during the storms, but towns in South East England have come ‘perilously close’ to running out of water amid the prospect of the first hosepipe ban in eight years.
It comes as the very hot temperatures gripping parts of Britain continued today with highs of 97F (37C) expected in southern England this afternoon, continuing the heatwave which began last Wednesday.
Today should be the sixth day in a row of the mercury hitting at least 93F (34C), which would be the longest run on record and confirm country’s most severe heatwave ever while a level three heat health alert remains in place.
Meteorologists also expect Britain to have the second longest run of consecutive 90F (32C) days on record. While the period is unlikely to get close to the 15 days in 1976, it should today beat the second-placed five days in 1995.
The record for the longest spell of 95F (35C) is three days – set in 1976 and 1990 – which this week could match. And the UK has only had heat of 98F (36.7C) on four days in history, one of which was recorded only 12 days ago.
There are 22 flood alerts or warnings in Scotland and five in England as a landslide shut a road in Fife and there was a major outage at an exchange in Edinburgh affecting 100,000 customers’ broadband on BT, EE and Plusnet.
Communities further south also face flash flooding today and tomorrow with further intense thunderstorms expected to inundate parts of Southern England with up to three inches of rain today – about a month’s average.
A house burst into flames in Falkirk after being struck by lightning, while Church of Scotland minister Peter Johnston, who is based in Aberdeen, tweeted this morning: ‘Biblical levels of flooding… never seen it this bad.’
Cars are piled up at Queen Victoria Hospital car park in Kirkcaldy, Fife, this morning after major flooding in Scotland overnight
Flooding at Perth station in Scotland this morning as ScotRail services are hit by weather disruption today
Flooding at Queen Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, Fife, today as thunderstorm warnings remain for most of the UK
Cars sit in floodwater in Perth, Scotland, this morning following thunderstorms and heavy rain overnight in parts of Britain
Cars on a flooded road in Aberdeen this morning following overnight heavy rain across parts of Scotland
Flooding outside Perth station in Scotland this morning as parts of the country are hit by heavy rain and thunderstorms
Cars have been left with major damage following flooding at Queen Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, Fife, this morning
A flooded road in Aberdeen is pictured this morning following heavy rain and thunderstorms overnight in parts of Scotland
The heavy rain and thunderstorms caused severe travel disruption and flooding across several parts of Scotland this morning, with rail passengers and motorists both facing major problems.
ScotRail said that due to ‘extremely heavy rain’ and flooding on the railway, services will be delayed or cancelled. Passengers were advised to check before travelling and consider alternative transport where possible.
The operator said it could not run any trains on seven routes – Edinburgh to Fife; Edinburgh to Glasgow Queen Street via Falkirk High and Grahamston; Edinburgh/Glasgow to Dunblane; Edinburgh to West Calder; Aberdeen to Edinburgh/Glasgow; Aberdeen to Dyce; and Inverness – Perth.
How Britain’s ten-day heatwave is unfolding
- Wednesday – 83.1F/28.4C (Santon Downham, Suffolk)
- Thursday – 86.2F/30.1C (Wisley, Surrey)
- Friday – 97.5F/36.4C (Kew, West London)
- Saturday – 94.1F/34.5C (Herstmonceux, East Sussex)
- Sunday – 93.2F/34C (Herstmonceux, East Sussex)
- Monday – 95.9F/35.6C (London Heathrow Airport)
- Tuesday – 96.3F/35.7C (London Heathrow Airport)
- TODAY – 97F/36C (forecast)
- Thursday – 91F/33C (forecast)
- Friday – 82F/28C (forecast)
On the roads, some vehicles were recovered after they were abandoned amid flooding on the M8, which was partly closed for a time but later reopened.
A Police Scotland spokesman said: ‘We were made aware of flooding on the M8 between junctions 5 and 6 in Lanarkshire shortly before 4am. No injuries have been reported and officers have assisted partner agencies.’
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said it was called to multiple reports of flooding in the Perthshire area, with many domestic properties affected.
Perth and Kinross Council said several roads in the area were impassable due to flooding.
At 7am, the council tweeted that Feus Road/Marshall Place/Wallace Crescent/Crammond Place/Crieff Road/Glasgow Road and A912 at Bogle Bridge were affected, while surface water was causing problems in many other areas.
Pictures posted on social media showed cars half-submerged in floodwater in streets in Perth.
In Fife, a landslide caused the closure of the A921 between Kinghorn and Burntisland. Police urged motorists to use an alternative route.
BT’s incident management team said a major outage at an exchange in Edinburgh, caused by the weather, was affecting about 100,000 customers’ broadband on BT, EE and Plusnet in the city and surrounding area.
It was reported at 6.30am and engineers were on site working on the issue.
A train stands in floodwater at Perth railway station in Scotland this morning following severe weather overnight
Flooding in Perth, Scotland, this morning as the Met Office issued a storm warning for all of England and Scotland
The Met Office has issued a yellow warning of thunderstorms for the eastern half of Scotland which is in force until midnight tonight.
Top ten temperatures recorded in UK history
- 101.7F/38.7C – July 25, 2019
- 101.3F/38.5C – August 10, 2003
- 100F/37.8C – July 31, 2020
- 98.8F/37.1C – August 3, 1990
- 98.1F/36.7C – July 1, 2015
- 98.1F/36.7C – August 9, 1911
- 97.9F/36.6C – August 2, 1990
- 97.7F/36.5C – July 19, 2006
- 97.5F/36.4C – August 7, 2020
- 97.5F/36.4C – August 6, 2003
It warned that some places are likely to see ‘further severe thunderstorms’, but with ‘significant uncertainty in location and timing’.
The warning covers Central, Tayside and Fife, Angus, Clackmannanshire, Dundee, Falkirk, Fife, Perth and Kinross and Stirling.
The Met Office has issued a yellow storm warning for all of England and the eastern half of Scotland, with a more serious amber warning for eastern Scotland between Edinburgh, Inverness and Aberdeen.
An amber warning means people should be on alert for flash flooding and building damage from lightning strikes, floodwaters and hailstones.
Delays to public transport, difficult driving conditions and possible road closures could also follow, while deep and fast floodwater could be a threat to human life.
Under its yellow warning, the Met Office is predicting storms in particular for the north-west, north Wales and the West Midlands for today and tomorrow.
Chief meteorologist Steve Ramsdale said in these areas ‘exceptional rainfall totals could be seen of 60mm in an hour with a very small chance of 150mm of rainfall in three or four hours’.
Ten properties in Lancashire were affected by flooding yesterday following overnight storms, the Environment Agency said.
The rainfall caused the Burrow Beck waterway in Scotforth, south Lancaster, to rise by almost a metre in less than three hours, the agency’s flood risk manager Andy Brown said.
A house burst into flames in Falkirk after being struck by lightning overnight amid the severe weather conditions
A spectacular lightning show lights up the skies over Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales overnight amid the severe conditions
Lightning is seen over Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire overnight as thunderstorms hit parts of Britain
Lightning is seen over Mow Cop in Staffordshire overnight as parts of the country faces severe thunderstorms
The Environment Agency said further heavy showers could cause more flooding in ‘mostly urban areas’ of England until Friday, with some homes being affected.
Now for the hosepipe ban! Warning from water chiefs as storms bring drama to heatwave
The prospect of the first hosepipe ban in eight years reared its head yesterday – just as dramatic storms began to sweep the country.
Families have been using record amounts of water to fill paddling pools and relieve parched gardens in the heatwave which has hit 98F in parts.
But while some towns have come ‘perilously close’ to running out of water, other areas have been hit by thunderstorms. Wales saw hailstones ‘the size of golf balls’ on Monday night and today the South faces a risk of flooding in downpours.
The increased water demand during the scorching weather is blamed on millions still working from home combined with families taking staycations.
Also, many families who took time to improve their gardens during lockdown have now been watering their plants. Water companies in the driest parts have now urged them to cut their usage.
South East Water has warned that their demand – a record 696million litres last Friday dropping slightly to 673million on Monday – was unsustainable.
And bosses have urged families to avoid using ‘water-guzzling garden hoses and sprinklers’. Steve Andrews, head of central operation at the company, said: ‘When demand is this high, we can’t treat enough raw water and get it through to all customers.’
He added: ‘The average paddling pool needs 530 litres of water to fill them – more than three times the total daily amount of water usually used by one person.’
Due to the shortages, around 300 households in parts of Sussex lost water supplies altogether over the weekend, with many more experiencing interrupted supplies.
It comes as skies across England were lit by thunderstorms on Monday night following scorching temperatures. And heavy rain hit Lancashire where at least ten properties were affected by flooding.
Today there are more flood warnings as thunderstorms start to sweep the country with as much as 3in of rain. The storms are expected to rage until Friday as the humid air has created the perfect conditions for thundery outbreaks.
The whole country is under a Met Office thunderstorm warning until then. The impact of the heatwave was seen at King’s College Cambridge where a wildflower meadow which was blooming in June was being raked away yesterday.
Meanwhile the prospect of the first hosepipe ban in eight years reared its head yesterday as sweltering families use record amounts of water filling paddling pools and restoring parched gardens after days of very high temperatures.
Despite parts of Britain being battered by dramatic thunderstorms, some towns have come ‘perilously close’ to running out of water, and hundreds of households have been cut off altogether.
Millions of people still working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic has combined with families taking staycations instead of travelling abroad to push water demand during the current heatwave to unprecedented levels.
Now water companies in the driest parts of England have urged people to cut their usage, with millions facing lower water pressure to preserve scarce supplies – although so far none has threatened to impose a hosepipe ban.
Around 300 households in parts of Sussex lost water supplies altogether over the weekend, with many more experiencing interrupted supplies.
Engineers from South East Water were yesterday working to restore supplies for people in parts of Haywards Heath and Cuckfield.
Bosses warned that demand – a record 696million litres last Friday dropping slightly to 673million on Monday – was unsustainable.
They blamed the surge on more of us being at home, the increase in staycations and people undertaking DIY and gardening projects.
Steve Andrews, head of central operations for South East Water, said: ‘When demand is this high, we simply can’t treat enough raw water and get it through the extensive network of pipes to all customers, especially at peak times.’
It is pumping an extra 150million litres a day into the system.
But he asked people to avoid using ‘water-guzzling garden hoses and sprinklers’ which it said could use as much water as a family-of-six over the course of a day.
‘I was shocked to be told that the average paddling pool now needs a whopping 530 litres of water to fill them – more than three times the total daily amount of water usually used by one person,’ Mr Andrews added.
‘This is adding to the high demand for water seen during this hot summer weather.’
Neighbouring Thames Water – with 15million customers – warned that ‘a combination of hot weather, businesses returning to work, and more people staying in the area over the holiday period due to Covid-19 restrictions’ meant water use across the Homes Counties and London could reach ‘unprecedented levels’.
It said ‘a good amount of water’ remained in its reservoirs despite rainfall being almost a third lower than normal over the past three months.
‘However, at peak times on hot days, customers in some areas are using water faster than it can be safely treated and pumped to homes and businesses,’ it said.
‘This current high demand will also inevitably reduce reservoir levels.’ Thames Water said it had no plans to impose a hosepipe ban but warned supply could be interrupted if demand did not drop.
Two horse riders cool their horses off in the sea near East Wittering in West Sussex this morning
The sun rises over fishing boats at anchor in the sea off of Selsey in West Sussex this morning
Elsewhere in Southern England, Anglian Water is urging customers to take shorter showers and to cover paddling pools overnight then top them up in the morning rather than refilling them daily.
Susannah Constantine drags her duvet into the garden to sleep outside
Many of us are tossing and turning in bed during the current heatwave.
But it’s all got way too much for former What Not to Wear co-host Susannah Constantine.
The one-time Strictly Come Dancing contestsant, 58, piled up mattresses and dragged her duvet into the garden to snooze under the stars.
Susannah Constantine has revealed that she has been sleeping outside during the UK heatwave as her house is ‘too hot’
Miss Constantine shared an Instagram picture of her lying on her makeshift bed outside. She captioned it: ‘Too hot to sleep inside last night.’
A day later she posted a picture showing an extra two mattresses piled up on her front lawn and said: ‘And then there were three (plus one dog).’
Although it’s not clear who was in the snaps, Miss Constantine and husband Sten Bertelsen share Joe, 21, Esme, 19 and Cece, 16, and live in West Sussex.
She hosted What Not To Wear with Trinny Woodall from 2001 to 2005.
Its director of water services, Paul Valleley, said there had been ‘unprecedented demand’, particularly in parts of Essex.
‘Our teams are working tirelessly to keep taps running but our network is under a huge amount of pressure,’ he said.
Meanwhile Affinity Water – which has 3million customers – said Clacton-on-Sea in Essex came ‘perilously close’ to running out of water over the weekend before a public information campaign saw residents and holidaymakers reduce their demand.
England’s last hosepipe ban was announced during the 2018 heatwave by United Utilities, which serves customers in the normally more rainy North West – although it was cancelled at the last minute when the weather broke.
It has no plans to impose restrictions, it said yesterday.
The warnings come after MPs last month warned that parts of England could run out of water altogether in the next 20 years, with an ‘unacceptable’ one-fifth of the daily supply lost to leaks.
Mims Davies, Conservative MP for Mid-Sussex, yesterday slammed South East Water’s failure to restore supplies as ‘truly diabolical’.
The junior minister tweeted that it was ‘absolutely unacceptable and gives people zero comfort this is being taken properly seriously’.
Elsewhere in the South East, Thames Water insisted reservoirs and aquifers were at normal levels for the time of year, meaning it had no plans to impose restrictions.
But a spokesman said: ‘During any hot and dry spells we could struggle in some areas to treat water and get it to our customers fast enough to keep up with demand, so we’re asking everyone to be particularly careful with how much they use.’
As millions struggled to sleep, retailer Currys PC World said sales of electric fans were up 1,300 per cent year on year.
The Met Office yesterday said climate change could lead to more ‘tropical nights’ where after-dark temperatures do not fall below 68F (20C).
It said there had been three ‘tropical nights’ so far this month, compared to four during the whole of last summer.
‘From a health point of view, the warm nights become an issue, because if you have a hot day and cool night, then people who have long-term health problems and the elderly have a chance to cool down,’ a spokesman said.