Thunderstorms and torrential downpours are set to sweep across the UK in a three-day deluge, hampering Britons’ plans for weekend staycations and causing wide-spread travel disruption.
The Met Office has issued a yellow thunderstorm warning for vast swathes of England and Wales on both Saturday and Sunday – just as thousands of holidaymakers rushed back from France after the country was added to the UK’s quarantine list.
This week brought soaring temperatures before revellers were forced to pack away their barbecues as storms moved in.
While Thursday saw highs of 90F (32C) in southern England, four inches of ‘biblical rain and hail’ was dumped on Wales and an A&E department in Gloucester had to be evacuated amid torrential downpours.
And the poor weather is only set to continue with flooding potentially leading to road closures, while extreme weather may damage buildings and cause power cuts and cancellations to train and bus services.
Forecasters also expect the weekend to be much cooler, following a week of hot and humid weather, with top temperatures reaching the mid-twenties.
The Met Office has issued a yellow thunderstorm warning for vast swathes of England and Wales on both Saturday and Sunday – just as thousands of holidaymakers rushed back from France after the country was added to the UK’s quarantine list
The south of England and Wales are likely to be the wettest areas, with frequent lightning, gusty winds and heavy downpours with 30 to 40mm of rain possible in less than an hour, according to the Met Office.
Five flood alert warnings have been issued across the West Midlands by the Environment Agency.
Met Office chief meteorologist Frank Saunders said: ‘Up until Monday, thunderstorm warnings cover much of England and Wales, with parts of southern England and South Wales seeing the greatest likelihood of impacts.
‘The storms will not affect all areas, but where they happen there will be frequent lightning, gusty winds and intense, heavy downpours with 30 to 40 millimetres of rain possible in less than an hour and, in a few unlucky spots, a small chance of 60 mm falling in a short period.
‘With the continuing hot weather, large swathes of the UK continue to be at risk from thunderstorms, and potentially the impacts from heavy rain, into the early part of next week.’
Spokesman Oli Claydon, added: ‘The overnight temperatures remaining quite high will mean quite a close, muggy feeling that is in tune with thunderstorms being forecast all the way through to Monday.
‘Some areas could see up as much as 40-50mm (1½-2in) of rain in two to three hours [today], with 50-70mm (2-2½in) possible in three hours on Sunday.
A shopping cart is seen in a flooded car park after heavy rain, in Hertford, Hertfordshire, as a car stops before entering the pool yesterday
The M25 was brought to a standstill by floodwater on Thursday, with only one slightly treacherous in use anti-clockwise and a BMW driver forced to abandon their car in the clockwise lane
People were out and about in the heavy rain and mist on Friday morning in Dunsden, Oxfordshire after a night of storms
People sheltering under umbrellas from the rain on Wimbledon Common on Thursday after many days of high temperatures. The forecast is for cooler weather with thunderstorm warnings and flash floods
Thunderstorms and heavy rain have battered parts of the south of England, forcing parts of the M25 and M23 to close for safety reasons on Thursday
‘There’s continued thunderstorm warnings through to Monday at the moment.’
Saturday’s outlook should be bright in the West but with thick cloud coming in from the North Sea in the North East, the Met Office said.
Mr Claydon added: ‘One thing to note with this kind of weather is it is important to keep an eye on the forecast as it can change quite quickly.
‘The nature of thunderstorms means it is quite tricky to be more specific as to exactly where. We can expect them anywhere in those yellow warning areas.’
Neil Davies, Flood Duty Manager at the Environment Agency, said: ‘Isolated thunderstorms could bring sudden surface water and river flooding, which may lead to flooded properties and severe travel disruption in some areas. Further surface water and river flooding is also a possibility until Sunday.’
The weather will be an added kick in the teeth for the thousands of Britons who made a mad dash across the Channel last night in a desperate bid to make it home before the government’s 14-day quarantine kicked in at 4am.
Friday morning saw a misty, hazy start after a night of storms over the farmland in the Oxfordshire countryside
There were treacherous conditions on the A14 near Cambridge on Thursday as torrential rain and dark skies made driving hazardous
From 4am onwards, all those arriving from France must quarantine for 14 days after the country reported a spike in coronavirus cases.
The 11th-hour move sparked chaos for an estimated 500,000 British holidaymakers in France – including a couple who forked out £1,000 for business class Eurostar seats and a family who drove for 12 hours to get home.
One mother was forced to leave two of her children behind with her husband when she fled France on the last Eurostar train.
The woman – who had to return to the UK before quarantine began due to her job – was only able to get tickets for herself and her baby.
She now fears her two daughters – who will return on Monday – may not be out of quarantine when their school goes back.
The woman, who did not provide her name, told Sky News: ‘This has completely ruined our summer. I don’t know what I’m going to do now. I am so upset about this.’
There are also fears that the new rules will cause thousands of children to miss the start of the school year as pupils who do not return to the UK by Tuesday night will still be self-isolating at home when the majority of schools go back on September 2.
But with limited capacity on flights, ferries and the Eurotunnel, many will have no choice but to stay in France – or pay high prices for some of the remaining tickets.
Some tourists had less time to avoid quarantine after the Scottish and Welsh governments demanded the rules be introduced a day earlier.
Meanwhile, France is likely to impose to impose tit-for-tat quarantine restrictions from Monday for people arriving from Britain, meaning British travellers will have to self-isolate on arrival there too.