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UK weather: lightning strikes homes in Hampshire as country hit by storms

·3-min read

A 70-year-old woman has escaped unharmed after two homes were partially destroyed by a lightning strike in Hampshire, with thunderstorms and heavy rain expected across the south of the UK this weekend.

After several days of sunny skies and scorching temperatures, the Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning in southern England and Wales for Saturday and Sunday, advising that frequent lightning, thundery rain and strong winds are expected.

With an estimated 11.5m leisure trips by car expected between last Wednesday and Sunday as the school holidays begin, forecasters have warned motorists that there may be difficult driving conditions and road closures this weekend, with the possibility of flooding in some areas.

Fire crews rushed to a street in Andover, Hampshire, on Saturday morning after a lightning strike severely damaged two houses. A 70-year-old woman escaped unharmed, but the roofs of both properties were destroyed by an explosion caused by the strike. A spokesperson for Hampshire fire and rescue service said fire crews were damping down the property following the strike.

Neighbour Barrie Austen, 79, said: “There was this enormous bang – it was obviously the lightning, I think it woke the rest of the street up.

“I saw the flickering and when I looked out I saw the roof of the semidetached house completely ablaze and it had completely gone. The side that supports the roof, that collapsed as well and then the flames spread into next door.”

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Festivalgoers could be in for a muddy weekend at Latitude in Suffolk, the first full-capacity festival to be held since the pandemic began, with 40,000 people expected to go. A yellow weather warning for thunderstorms covers the government test event from 9am on Sunday until midnight.

The Met Office’s principal operational meteorologist, Frank Saunders, said: “The warnings in place over the weekend show a marked shift in the weather pattern for many southern areas as low pressure moves in, with potential impacts for business and the public. This more unsettled weather brings a risk of torrential downpours and flooding in some places. However, areas further north will cling on to see some fine weather through the weekend, although not quite as hot as recently.”

The heavy rain has come just as the school summer break begins in England and Wales, putting a dampener on many plans for domestic holidays. With a recent YouGov poll finding that just 8% of Britons have an overseas holiday booked amid the complex restrictions on travel, many will be aiming for a trip within the UK.

The weather warnings have been issued less than two weeks after southern England was hit with heavy, thundery showers that caused floods in parts of London. London fire brigade said its 999 control officers received more than 150 calls to flooding incidents in the capital on 12 July, wreaking havoc and causing severe damage to some homes and businesses. Scientists have long warned that the climate crisis is triggering extreme weather events, from devastating heatwaves in Canada to the deadly deluges seen across Europe.

Forecasters said the unsettled weather looks set to continue into early next week, with more persistent rain expected for much of the UK.

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