Britain has enjoyed its sunniest and warmest May on record, provisional figures show, despite the week of torrential rain, thunderstorms and flash flooding that has brought travel chaos to Britain.
And things could be about to change this weekend at the start of meteorological summer, with more settled and sunny weather expected for much of England as temperatures soar as high as 77F (25C) in the South on Sunday.
Fresher air will arrive with a cold front to signal an end to the humidity and muggy nights that have blighted the country in recent days, while temperatures should get up to a minimum of around 70F (21C) for the next week.
But the risk of thunderstorms and torrential rain will remain for Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of eastern England for the next few days with the Met Office having imposed warnings for these areas today and tomorrow.
Met Office forecaster Nicky Maxey told MailOnline: ‘The risk of thunderstorms and torrential rain eases as we go through the weekend. There’s some fresher air coming in with a cold front to the South of England.
‘Things start to improve from the South with some sunshine. We lose those muggy nights and humidity. But there is still the risk of torrential rain and thunderstorms tomorrow for Northern Ireland, Scotland and the east coast.
‘Then on Sunday we’ve still got the potential for some of those thundery showers for Scotland Northern Ireland, and later on there’s a risk for South Wales, but outside of those areas we’ve got a lot of sunshine.’
It comes after commuters across Britain endured travel chaos today and hundreds of families were left stranded as Ryanair cancelled flights in and out of London Stansted Airport following further severe weather.
Huge queues form at lunch time for a promotional free ice cream from a van by The Studios at Media City in Salford today
A group of young people take a selfie with an ice cream next to a van in the sunshine at Media City in Salford today
People make the most of a humid and misty June 1 at Christchurch Quay in Dorset today
People walk along Christchurch Quay in Dorset today as parts of southern England experience further humid weather
Great Western Railway trains were running more slowly than usual after Network Rail imposed blanket speed restrictions on the line, with Didcot Parkway station in Oxfordshire under more than a foot of floodwater.
Passengers at the station were left to wade through the deep waters or be helped by firefighters, with travellers reporting raw sewage flowing from drains – and one commuter saying she had been given a piggy back.
Some 100 people were evacuated from the Old Fire Station arts centre in Oxford after water began coming through the roof, while homes were flooded in Herefordshire and lightning started a house fire in Colwall.
Air passengers were stuck in Berlin and Budapest while others at Stansted faced huge queues last night, with frustrated travellers demanding to know why Ryanair was the only firm cancelling flights due to ‘adverse weather’.
Hundreds of people were pictured queuing for information at Stansted, while others stranded abroad claiming they were stuck with no hotel to stay in – but the airline insisted all affected passengers were re-accommodated.
Sheryl Hickey tweeted a picture of huge queues at Stansted’s check-in desks, saying: ‘Beware of flying with Ryanair! Flight cancelled, no announcement, no staff anywhere. Appalling customer service.
‘Three hours in queue. No Ryanair staff throughout Stansted. Hundreds of people queueing. Easy for saving fuel when seats are empty. Now getting alternative flight and six-hour bus journey. Happy holidays.’
Nicky Peters added: ‘My two daughters aged 19 and 15 are currently sitting in a plane in Budapest. They have been on the plane three hours and have been told they will not take off for over another hour.
‘The cabin crew won’t give them food or drink. This is disgusting and I can’t contact anyone to get info.’
In addition, Twitter user ‘Katerina’ said: ‘My family just got stranded at Stansted Airport. One brother autistic the other on wheelchair. They need accommodation. They need help. So far no one is helping.’
The Environment Agency has issued 59 flood alerts for southern England and the West Midlands – along with one more serious warning for the River Lambourn in Berkshire, warning local residents to take ‘immediate action’
Ryanair said it had to cancel flights in and out of Stansted because of the weather, and apologised for the inconvenience caused – insisting that it had contacted all affected customers to advise them of their options.
A spokesman told MailOnline: ‘All affected customers were contacted by SMS text message and email and advised of their options of a full refund, free transfer onto the next available flight or a free transfer on to an alternative route, and were also provided with refreshment vouchers.’
Earlier, the airline had said: ‘We apologise for any inconvenience caused by this weather disruption, which is entirely beyond our control, and we are working hard to minimise the disruption to our operations.’
The Met Office has a weather warning in place for rain across western England, Northern Ireland and most of Scotland and Wales today, alerting the public to up to 2.4in (60mm) of rain in just three hours.
Forecasters have warned of scattered heavy showers and thunderstorms developing over the area today, with torrential rain, lightning and large hail also possible between 9am and 10pm today.
A further warning for tomorrow in Scotland and Northern Ireland between 11am and 9pm tells of further heavy showers and thunderstorms, with up to 2.8in (70mm) of rain in three hours, frequent lightning and large hail.
The warnings for today and tomorrow add: ‘Fast flowing or deep floodwater is possible, causing a danger to life.’
Sheryl Hickey tweeted a picture today of huge queues at London Stansted Airport, saying: ‘Beware of flying with Ryanair!’
Chris Corlett tweeted around midnight that he faced a ‘six-hour queue’ at the customer service desk at Stansted to get a hotel
Ryanair passengers took to social media to tell of their displeasure at the flight disruption at London Stansted and elsewhere
The Environment Agency has issued 59 flood alerts for southern England and the West Midlands – along with one more serious warning for the River Lambourn in Berkshire, warning local residents to take ‘immediate action’.
Met Office meteorologist John West told how a ‘lively’ day was in store today, despite a bright start for some. He said: ‘It will be a warm and humid day, with some decent spells of sunshine.
‘But with the temperatures rising and an awful lot of moisture in the air, we’ll see more heavy showers and thunderstorms returning by early afternoon.
‘This will affect Northern Ireland, Scotland and western parts of England and Wales. With some torrential downpours, it is likely that we will see some localised flooding.’
It comes after storms and heavy downpours caused problems in some parts of Britain yesterday afternoon and overnight.
Train passengers in the Midlands could find their journeys affected after lightning strikes damaged equipment between Birmingham New Street and Wolverhampton. Network Rail said disruption was expected until about 9am.
South-west parts of England were worst-affected overnight, with Gloucestershire County Council reporting multiple calls to the fire service over flash flooding.
Flights were also cancelled due to the severe weather conditions, with 48 easyJet services affected at Gatwick Airport. Ryanair cancelled a ‘small number’ of flights, while others were delayed.
Didcot Parkway train station in Oxfordshire is flooded, leaving passengers to wade through water or be helped by firefighters
Travellers at Didcot reported raw sewage flowing from drains, while one commuter said she had been given a piggy back
Horses are exercised in misty conditions this morning before ladies day of the Investec Derby Festival at Epsom in Surrey
The Environment Agency has urged people to check their flood risk and warned people not to drive through flood water.
Kate Marks, Environment Agency flood duty manager, said teams would work ’24/7′ to operate flood defences, clear blockages in rivers and streams and support partners at any incidents of surface water flooding.
‘With heavy rain forecast during rush hour, drivers should stay up to date with the latest weather forecast and travel information before making their journey,’ she said. ‘We remind people not to drive through flood water as just 30cm (1ft) can move your car.’
Bookmakers have cut the odds on the UK seeing the hottest June day since records began from 10-1 to 4-1.
The current record is 96F (35.6C) recorded in 1976. Coral are offering odds of 2-1 that next month goes on to be the hottest June on record.
A spokesman said: ‘Last June we reached well over 30 degrees during a spell of thunderstorms and all the signs are now that we could be set for another wet and wild heatwave this June.
‘The records for both the hottest month and the hottest day are both well within the realms of possibility and we’ve cut our odds accordingly.’
Father, 51, describes how terrifying lightning strike threw him across his bedroom, burnt down his house and left him temporarily unable to see or hear
A father has described the moment a bolt of lightning struck his house in the middle of the night, setting it on fire and destroying all his possessions.
Paul Robinson, 51, was renting two rooms at a property in Romford, Essex. One of the rooms he occupied was the attic room, which he shared with his wife Anna, 32, while his two-year-old daughter Jasmine’s room was on the first floor.
At around 1am on Sunday morning, a bolt of lightning struck the window of the attic bedroom. Some 35 firefighters rushed to the home and reported the entire second floor loft room and half the first floor of the property were damaged.
The lightning struck the window in the attic of the Robinsons’ home in Romford, Essex, causing a large electrical fire
Mr and Mrs Robinson and Jasmine, along with their landlord called Dave, had already fled the house.
Describing the moment the lightning struck the window in his bedroom, Mr Robinson explained how the ‘loudest noise that he’d ever heard’ was enough to make him temporarily lose the ability to both see and hear.
He said: ‘I was sitting at my desk and I just heard the loudest sound that I’d ever heard in my life. I didn’t know what had happened, but I did realise that I was no longer sitting at my desk and was now over near the doorway to the landing.
‘I don’t remember if I was blown across or stumbled across but I just don’t remember getting there. I do remember thinking that I couldn’t see and that I couldn’t hear either.’
Miraculously, neither Mr Robinson nor his wife were in their bed, which is immediately adjacent to the window that was struck. Mr Robinson was at his desk and Mrs Robinson was downstairs with their daughter.
Mr Robinson continued: ‘I then realised that I hadn’t lost all my senses because I could smell and the first thing I could smell was burning. I didn’t know where it was coming from because I couldn’t see anything.
35 firefighters rushed to the home and reported the entire second floor loft room and half the first floor of the property were damaged
‘I staggered around the room wondering what I was going to do, which was when my sight started slowly coming back to me and I noticed a fire at the end of my bed. My first thought was to go downstairs and check out my daughter’s room.
‘I went to go and put the light on and the light switch had been blown off the wall and it was just hanging by the wiring. I told my wife to grab the baby and get out the house.
Mr Robinson explained how the ‘loudest noise that he’d ever heard’ was enough to make him temporarily lose the ability to both see and hear
‘I didn’t leave straight away as I wanted to make sure they got out first and then Dave started coming up the stairs as he must have heard me calling for water, but I told him not to bother and to just get out the house.’
Mr Robinson said that he then started to feel lightheaded because the house filled up with smoke. He added: ‘This is when I knew it was time to get myself out quickly.
‘There was quite a crowd gathered outside, as everyone had been woken by our neighbour’s houses shaking and car alarms were going off. I also had a collection of snakes that we were trying to breed rarer colour forms.
‘We were then going to sell them as a business to create the deposit for our own home. They all died in the fire but I wasn’t really thinking of them as if I had, I probably wouldn’t have had time to get out myself.
‘It is good that your emotions kick in during times like that and you realise what actually means a lot to you because we couldn’t save everything and I’m glad we didn’t.’
It is not the only time Mr and Mrs Robinson have been caught up in a disaster zone. He said: ‘Five years ago when I got married, we were in the Philippines when they had the worst typhoon in recorded history and we survived that.
‘In England, you live in homes built of bricks that are meant to survive any weather, but you then find that you are wrong.’
The only things that Mr Robinson and his family now own is his car and some clothes and cuddly toys donated to him by members of his local church and friends.
‘I don’t know what our options are now because we don’t have the money to go out and pay a market rent,’ he said.
‘The council will not home us because my wife is not a UK national having only been here for four years and needing to have been here for six, so it limits our options.
‘Our friends were going on holiday the day after the fire and had been let down by a house sitter, so luckily we were able to stay there. They are back on Monday though so I don’t know what we’ll do from there.
‘We knew that our room was 100 per cent fire damaged, but we held on to the hopes that some our stuff in the room below may have been salvageable but when we went back to the house, everything was 100 per cent water damaged.
‘We’ve had some help that doesn’t show on the fundraising page. The bishop put aside some money for us to go out and replace some clothes that we’d lost and they had passed round a calendar to mark down days to provide meals, but where we are staying in Southend at the moment, we don’t expect people to travel to us to provide meals.
Paul Robinson, 51, is pictured with his wife Anna, 32, and two-year-old daughter Jasmine. They are now temporarily living in Southend
‘It is strange how a disaster brings the best out of people. Like in journalism and when I was in the police force, you often see the absolute worst in some people that are out there, so it is nice to see the other side of human nature.
‘We have nice neighbours and friends within our church community that have really helped to restore our faith in humanity.’
A GoFundMe page has been set up by a friend of the Robinson family at their nearby Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Mr Robinson says his daughter is still unaware of the situation that the family is in.
He continued: ‘It is very touching that people have responded the way they have. My wife has found this all stressful, but my daughter is blissfully unaware of what has happened because she has so many new soft toys.
‘I keep saying to people that we do not have anywhere to put things and the fundraiser is more important to us than giving us things, as we can’t rebuild our lives if we don’t have anywhere to put things.
‘If people would like to help, we’d appreciate money being put into the fundraiser so we know where we are and we can have somewhere to put things.’
Mr Robinson admitted that, because he cannot work through health problems and that he fails to qualify for necessary benefits to keep his life on track, he may take the decision to leave the country and move to the Philippines permanently.
‘We have been considering retiring to the Philippines because we have been finding it tough in this country for a long time,’ he said.
‘I do feel quite strongly about the situation we are in and I think we live in a time where it is tough for everyone – I don’t know many people who have it easy.
‘My police pension stops me qualifying for benefits in this country and it will go a lot further over there. Perhaps we will go sooner rather than later now because we now have nothing left to keep us here.
‘The sad thing is that because I got these injuries through serving for the police force and put all my tax into the system, I feel a bit bitter that we now cannot afford to stay in this country and that our best option is to leave.’
A GoFundMe page has been set up by a friend of the Robinson family at their nearby Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Romford to help the family with vital needs to get them a place to live. It has already raised more than £1,000.
Why has Britain had such extreme weather? Scientists reveal how it’s down to the ‘North Atlantic Oscillation’
It’s hard to believe amid the warm weather Britain has been experiencing for the past several weeks that only two months ago, parts of the country were still covered in snow following the Beast from the East.
And scientists have now revealed how the rapid transition from cold to warm weather was caused by the flip of a phenomenon called the ‘North Atlantic Oscillation’, which measures the strength of westerly winds off the Atlantic.
The flip of the NAO from a strong negative to a strong positive phase coincided with the transition towards warmer continental air at the time of year, which resulted in the quick change in Britain from sub-zero to balmy conditions.
This graphic shows anomalies in surface pressure for March. The month was dominated by higher than normal pressure to Britain’s north, and lower pressure to the south, bringing in anomalous easterly winds. This is a negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)
Simon Lee, a researcher at the University of Reading’s department of meteorology, told MailOnline how the story of the extreme conditions began in mid-February with an event known as Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW).
This rapid warming of temperatures between six and 31 miles up in the stratosphere generated ‘atmospheric blocking’ – when the usual west-to-east flow of the UK’s weather at its latitudes was deflected or reversed.
This manifested itself in a high pressure system north east of the UK, which brought in a feed of easterly winds that became the ‘Beast from the East’ – combining with Storm Emma from Portugal to bring deadly conditions to Britain.
This was represented as a negative phase of the NAO, which means the westerly winds reversed to easterlies – bringing cold weather in winter. The Atlantic jet stream sunk south, so that Britain became on the cold pole-ward side.
This graphic shows anomalies in surface pressure for May so far. It shows how Britain has seen the reverse weather pattern of a positive NAO. But Britain has still been influenced by continental air, thanks to high pressure to the east yet again, which this time is warmer
Continental air becomes very cold in winter, due to the low heat capacity of the land surface – which also means it heats up quickly during spring and summer.
This means that weather patterns which generate cold weather in the UK in winter tend to generate warm weather in the spring and summer months.
Mr Lee said: ‘In late April, the NAO transitioned into a strong positive phase. This is associated with a strengthened Atlantic jet stream, which shifts pole-ward and leaves us on the equator-ward, warm side, under high pressure.
‘The flip of the NAO from strong negative to strong positive phase, coinciding with the transition toward warmer continental air at this time of year, led to a rapid transition from cold weather to warm weather.’
Hammersmith Bridge in West London is blasted by the Siberian snowstorm nicknamed the ‘Beast from the East’ on March 1 this year
Mr Lee continued: ‘It’s a complicated picture, but the basic result is that we’ve been under the influence of high pressure systems both in March – with the Beast (from the East) – and then in April and May.
‘And the simple change of season has resulted in a switch from cold to warm. Amplification of patterns in the jet stream, probably due to the SSW, have helped us see both extremes.’
He added: ‘It’s a case of perfect timing, in a way. Had the SSW happened earlier in the winter, we likely wouldn’t have seen the rapid change as we have had.’
Mr Lee also pointed out that flipping between extremes is common in the UK, with a prolonged absence of rainfall for central and southern England prompting a hosepipe ban in April 2012 – before the wettest April-to-June period on record.