Giant hailstones, terrible floods, homes evacuated. Was all of this caused by the 'Spanish plume'?

 

The flash floods that have destroyed homes and businesses, and caused travel chaos across the country could be down to a weather phenomenon known as the “Spanish plume”, meteorologists say.

Hailstones the size of golf balls rained down on the streets of Leicestershire as a unique combination of rare weather conditions led to the creation of “supercell” thunderstorms across the Midlands.

Paul Knightley, senior forecaster at MeteoGroup, said the freak circumstances were created by warm, moist and “unstable” air sweeping up from the south being lifted by a cold weather front and bringing unusually intense downpours.

“What tends to happen is that warm dry air from the Spanish plateau sits on top of more warm, humid air and acts like a lid,” he said.

Air is unable to rise through this hot lid, but as the sun heated the ground below and a cold front came in from the west, “the humid air exploded up into the atmosphere. We also had the winds changing direction, and that can help make the storms even more powerful – creating supercell thunderstorms. This combination is quite rare.”

The Met Office has argued that horrendous weather is simply a result of “intense thunderstorms”.

“The air originated much further south, in the Azores,” said press officer Sarah Holland. “That’s why some areas saw Saharan dust.”

The storms in the Midlands eased today, but not before killing a man in Shropshire, named locally as retired maths teacher Mike Ellis. He had abandoned his car in the road and was walking across fields in Bitterley, near Ludlow, when he was knocked off his feet by a brook which had burst its banks.

The relentless deluges also meant that the Godiva Festival in Coventry’s War Memorial Park – expected to entertain 100,000 revellers this weekend – was cancelled.

Mr Knightley warned that further north, the misery may have only just begun, saying: “In Scotland there have been some active thunderstorms, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see some flash flooding there.”

East Coast and Virgin West Coast trains saw services disrupted, with the former unable to run any trains between Newcastle upon Tyne and Edinburgh. Flooding and landslips saw some passengers report 15-hour train journeys from London to Scotland. Sarah Brown, wife of the former prime minister, tweeted: “I left London on 4pm train and just arrived in Fife at 2am after floods and landslides disrupted travel – hope other travellers all okay.”

In North Tyneside, residents were evacuated by boat as the region was hit by thunderstorms. Twice the average rainfall for the entire month of June fell in less than four hours, with almost four inches in three hours alone. Some 50 properties were abandoned in West Monkseaton, where authorities were concerned about the floods’ lasting impact.

“The system just couldn’t cope, I’ve never seen that amount of rainfall in my life,” said local councillor Bill Caithness. “It’s been pretty horrific for a lot of people: people have had a nightmare experience. The flood waters appear to have dried out but the residual damage is still there, and that’s the tragedy. People’s floors are going to have to be ripped out, and what’s the cost going to be? Lots of residents are getting stuck in and helping out. I wouldn’t say they’re enjoying it but there’s definitely that wartime spirit.”

The shadow environment secretary, Mary Creagh, called for the Government to support local authorities with the cost of clean-up efforts.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
tech
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas