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Strong Thunderstorms And Torrential Rain Sweep Britain

July 19, 2014

By Vanessa Thorpe, The Observer (UK)

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Lightning strikes and floods damaged homes and caused disruption across southern England and in the Midlands Saturday as a weather system known as the "Spanish plume" pushed thunderous storms northwards through the country.

In Holland-on-Sea in Essex, a family were made homeless when their bungalow was struck by lightning early Saturday, while the roof of a home in Chelmsford caught fire in a lightning strike. No one was hurt.

The roof and first floor of a house in Sittingbourne, Kent, were set alight, while in neighboring Whitstable a bungalow was damaged. Houses were struck in the Maidstone and Ashford areas and almost a quarter of flights from Heathrow airport had to be cancelled over a two-hour period as the storm clouds passed over. Manchester airport reported an electrical surge caused by thunderstorms that affected the baggage-handling system and led to delays.

Heart patients in a hospital ward in Somerset also had to be moved to safety when heavy rain brought down part of the building's ceiling in the early hours.

Train services from Bath were blocked by flooding on the line near Trowbridge and several roads in Gloucestershire were closed by heavy downpours, police reported, while in the West Midlands a woman became trapped by floodwater in her car in Stourton and had to be rescued from it by the fire service. She was unharmed.

The violent weather and flooding followed a day of very high temperatures on Friday and was expected to move north overnight.

The sudden switch from extreme heat to thunderstorms saw campers at the Latitude festival in Suffolk waking up to fields full of mud after an opening day at Henham Park when 35,000 spectators had experienced temperatures that reached 28C (82.4F).

The severity of the storms is expected to diminish across Britain Sunday.

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(c) 2014 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

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Story image: Byeong Hun An of Korea walks along the 3rd fairway with his caddie Dean Smith as rain falls during the third day of the British Open Golf championship at the Royal Liverpool golf club, Hoylake, England, Saturday July 19, 2014. AP Photo/Peter Morrison

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