Snow, hail and a freak twister hit the Humber

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The tornado season, usually found in the US Midwest, appears to have taken off around the coasts of Britain with a spectacular giant waterspout sweeping across the Humber estuary yesterday, following a similar one off the Cornish coast at the weekend.

The tornado season, usually found in the US Midwest, appears to have taken off around the coasts of Britain with a spectacular giant waterspout sweeping across the Humber estuary yesterday, following a similar one off the Cornish coast at the weekend.

Yesterday's twister formed as a freak storm hit East Yorkshire, flooding homes and businesses and knocking out mainline rail services from York station. Torrential rain was in some places replaced by hail, which piled onto the ground several inches deep.

No-one was hurt by the waterspout, although for a time it looked like endangering small boats. A similar tornado rushed along the North Cornish coast near Bude at the weekend but caused no damage.

"I was standing at the kitchen window when I saw this black funnel coming down in the direction of Bude," local resident Penny Money said. "It was a fantastic sight. The funnel came downwards from the only black cloud in the whole of the sky and seemed to get longer as it made its way across the sky. I have never seen anything like this before."

The vortexes that form tornadoes are caused by differences in pressure associated with unstable showery and thundery weather. Several tend to occur in Britain each year although they rarely cause casualties, in contrast to the southern states of the US, where in some years dozens of people are killed.

Yesterday's Yorkshire storm was quite remarkable in its intensity with the fire service receiving more than 80 calls from a single village, Hedon, to the east of Hull, which was particularly badly affected.

Sub fire officer Ian Daddy said: "It's weird. There's snow in some parts of the village and flooding in other parts. The downpour lasted just over an hour and it was unbelievable."

John Plater, who manages Hedon Post Office, said: "There is about eight inches of hail banked up by the side of the shops - the hailstones were huge. The water was above the road and a lot of homes and businesses have been flooded. We've had customers in their 80s saying they've never witnessed summer weather like this in their lives."

At York station, four lightning strikes caused a power surge which knocked out signalling and track circuits systems just before 9am. Services were delayed as engineers worked to repair the damage. A Railtrack spokesman said: "It was an amazing storm. There was ice all over the ground."

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