Monday, 1 August 2011

Article - Weatherwatch: historic thunderstorms wreaked mayhem (Notts)

August 1, 1846 holds the record for the most widespread and damaging series of thunderstorms on one day in Britain. At least 10 of the storms included hail that smashed windows, damaged roofs and flattened crops.

Contemporary accounts in different places describe the hailstones as being as big as walnuts, hazelnuts or marbles. Some hail was described as flat, other pieces oval and lumps were frequently larger than 25 mm in diameter. Rain gauges recorded as much as three inches in less than three hours. Perhaps the most destructive storm struck Weldon, Northamptonshire between 6pm and 7pm. Every house in the village had windows broken, roofs were demolished by the wind and hail, and livestock was swept away by floodwaters.

The storms were preceded by a heat wave, with the temperature exceeding 30C in many places. They began in the south and moved north as far as Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire. London was badly affected by the hail, with windows, particularly on the south side of buildings, being smashed – including the wooden frames in some cases. More than 7,000 squares of fanlights were demolished at the two Houses of Parliament and Westminster Hall, and both chambers were flooded.

Massive destruction was reported to glass roofs in Belgrave Square, Burlington Arcade, the British Institution, Somerset House and Paddington and Euston railway stations.

In the countryside several people were killed by lightning while working in the fields and many birds died after being struck by hailstones.

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