Giant hailstones pound county

By Danielle NuttallSIX days ago East Anglia was basking under unbroken Mediterranean sunshine.But the region's heatwave came to a crashing halt last night with the arrival of severe thunderstorms - and hailstones the size of golf balls.

By Danielle Nuttall

SIX days ago East Anglia was basking under unbroken Mediterranean sunshine.

But the region's heatwave came to a crashing halt last night with the arrival of severe thunderstorms - and hailstones the size of golf balls.

Residents were stunned as giant hailstones rained down on parts of Brantham, on the Essex and Suffolk border, during the tea-time storms.


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Areas of Ipswich were also pounded by ice cube-sized hailstones and commuters driving out of the town along the A12 could hardly hear their radios over the din.

Roads were flooded across Suffolk, while at least one house caught fire after being struck by lightning and thousands of homes were plunged into darkness as storms caused power supply problems.

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Firefighters tackled an attic blaze in Highfield Approach, Ipswich, which broke out at 6.20pm after a suspected lightning strike and took an hour to put out.

A spokesman for Suffolk police said the heavy downpours had caused drain covers to overflow in Capel St Mary, leaving the area flooded.

He added other parts of the county had also been affected by flooding, but fortunately there had been no major problems to report.

In Stowupland, Donna Mayes, 28, and her partner Ben Whitehall were given a fright when the television aerial of their home was struck by lightning, completely blowing out the booster box.

Hours earlier, Mr Whitehall had joked about how ironic it would be if the property was struck by lightning as he had bought new electrical equipment, including a DVD player, earlier that day.

“There was an almighty crash and lightning and the whole living room went blue and the TV cabinet flashed and I screamed and panicked,” said Ms Mayes, of Poplar Hill.

“We checked to see if anything was burning and our neighbours had seen it come all the way down the aerial.”

A spokeswoman for EDF Energy said up to 2,000 homes in Debenham were cut off at the height of last night's storms, but most had their power back within a few minutes.

More than 200 homes in Hadleigh also suffered power cuts, which were again reconnected quickly. “There were no lengthy or widespread faults,” the spokeswoman added.

East Anglian Daily Times weatherman Ken Blowers said the dramatic shift in weather had been caused by a depression from the south.

“In the western half of Ipswich we had hail about half-an-inch across. There were several thunderstorms,” he added.

“The weather has now changed completely from the heatwave to an unsettled pattern of weather for the next several days. Temperatures will be very much cooler. It has been up to 29C (84F) and they will now go down to 23C (73F).

“The latest breakdown in weather has been caused by a depression, which has actually come from the south and is now covering England.

“Where we have been under the influence of an Azores anticyclone, we now have a thundery depression over us.”

Mr Blowers said hail was the result of raindrops being thrown violently into freezing layers of air due to electrical currents during a thunderstorm, which left them with several coats of ice.

The last severe hailstorm in the county was on August 22, 1987, where hailstones more than an inch in thickness dented cars in Woodbridge.

danielle.nuttall@eadt.co.uk

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