Galleries: Half-a-month's rain falls in one night

A VIOLENT thunderstorm bought more than half the average rainfall for June hammering down on parts of Essex and Suffolk in just five hours.

Annie Davidson

A VIOLENT thunderstorm bought more than half the average rainfall for June hammering down on parts of Essex and Suffolk in just five hours.

The storm, which flooded homes and roads and caused a lightning strike on the roof of Ipswich railway station, also bought hail to the town of Lakenheath.

Emergency services in both counties were swamped with calls and thousands of homes in Suffolk were left without power when the storm hit late on Monday afternoon.

The heavens opened and the sky went black as the storm unleashed its power over East Anglia.

In Lakenheath, so much hail plummeted from the sky that Tony Lawn and his two daughters were able to build a summer snowman.

Most Read

Mr Lawn, who runs Pingles Publishing, said: “In the end there were about two or three inches of water and the hail was floating on top. It was quite something.”

Fellow Lakenheath resident Sydney Gentry, of Eriswell Drive, said: “I have never in this country gone through one (a storm) like it.

“It was terrible. It just looked like a winter's day instead of our British summer.”

In the Babergh area, residents were left baffled by a black mushroom-like cloud which appeared in the sky at about 9pm.

One of those who spotted the phenomenon was Sue Brotherwood, town clerk at Sudbury Town Council, who at first thought there had been a major explosion somewhere between Glemsford and Long Melford.

She said: “There was this black mushroom cloud and it looked quite horrific.

“It looked like an explosion, like an atomic mushroom but black.”

But Suffolk fire service said it had not dealt with any incidents in the area on Monday night.

In Essex, Clacton and Walton were hit by flooding and a terraced house in Chelmsford caught fire after being struck by lightning.

Annette Harris' home in Burghley Way was set alight when the roof was hit and three fire crews spent more than an hour putting the fire out.

Mrs Harris, who lives with her two children at the three-storey terraced property, said: “I heard a bang and could hear car alarms going off so thought it was outside.

“Then a friend of mine phoned and we ended up going out for dinner so I was actually at the restaurant when we got a call from my daughter's friend to say the house is on fire.

“It was actually spotted by a little boy, Harrison, who lives over the road.

“He told his mum, so if it had not been for him, it would have been a lot worse.

“Thankfully the damage only seems to be in the roof but we are waiting to hear from the insurance people as to how bad it all is.”

The damage from Monday night's fire meant the family were forced to stay in a hotel last night.

Essex Fire and Rescue Service dealt with 200 flood-related incidents between early Monday afternoon and 5.30am yesterday.

Chris Bell, of forecasters Weatherquest in Norwich, said some parts of Essex and Suffolk had been hit by more than half the rainfall of an average June in less then five hours.

Ipswich was particularly affected with 30mm of rain falling onto the town - the average for June is 52mm.

But the patchiness of the rainfall was demonstrated by the much lower figure for nearby Wattisham of just 8mm during the same time period.

Mr Bell said: “I think that it was pretty well forecast, we had been talking about the risk of thunderstorms for a few days and the Met Office had issued an advisory which it then advanced up to a warning saying rainfall totals could have been in excess of 50mms.

“The reason for that was there was some unstable air in the upper atmosphere and light winds and that meant any thunderstorms developing were very slow moving.

“There was a lot of rain coming down but it (the storm) wasn't drifting very quickly so anywhere it was crossing it was raining on for a long time, fairly heavily.”

Mr Bell said storms in the UK usually moved at around 30mph and could be gone within 15 minutes but Monday night's torrential downpour stayed over some places for an hour

“Out of all the Suffolk areas Ipswich was one of the hardest hit,” he added.

John Law, also of Weatherquest, said the un-seasonal hail stones were not uncommon during summer storms and were the result of the clouds being so large that the top of them were extremely cold, creating the hailstones.

Farmers were however pleased with the rainfall which Suffolk NFU chairman John Collen said had been “crucial - really needed.”

“We could have done with more and rain in one big hit like that is not ideal but given the drought position we are in any rain is well received,” he said.

Sun-lovers were also happy with the news that warmer weather was on its way for the weekend with temperatures set to be slightly higher than average.