Hailstorm smashes windows, punches through roofs and dents cars in northern England with 'golf balls' of ice on hottest day of year

Severe thunderstorms were triggered yesterday by searing temperatures on the hottest July day on record in the UK

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The Independent Online

A freak hailstorm sparked by the hottest July day on record has wreaked havoc in northern England, with “golf ball-sized” chunks of ice denting cars, smashing windows and even punching through roofs.

Diners at a pub in Yorkshire had to flee from their tables when hail started hurtling through the ceiling shortly after 8pm last night, while walkers ran for cover outside.

Stephen Ross, landlord of The Bolton Arms in Downholme, told The Independent he was chatting with customers enjoying the sunshine when they heard thunder rumbling in the distance.

Hail punched through a plastic roof in the dining room of The Bolton Arms pub in Downholme.

“It started with big drops of rain and about 10 minutes later the hail came down – it was just a river of stones bouncing down the road,” he said.

“People were sitting in the dining room and it starting puncturing holes in the roof.

“They couldn't go outside because if you got hit by one on the head it would have done some damage, so everyone ended up sheltering in the bar.”

Mr Ross, who kept a large hailstone in the freezer for insurance purposes, said he emerged from the pub to see every car in the village had been dented, adding: “I've never seen anything like it.”

Footage of the storm in nearby Swaledale showed an endless barrage of hailstones bouncing down a road and hitting windows, with the hot ground causing huge clouds of mist to form.

Linda Scott, who took the video, said the hail smashed two windows in the kitchen and a skylight, destroyed plants, cracked slate roof tiles, snapped a satellite dish in half and left car bonnets looking "like someone had gone at them with a hammer".

She told The Independent that she thought they had escaped thunderstorms after a day of 31C sunshine, having seen lightning pass over a nearby hill earlier in the day.

But out of nowhere hail “the size of tennis balls” started to fall at around 8.30pm and started bouncing down the road.

“I was taking pictures from the front window and I heard the sound of smashing glass from the back of the house,” she said.

“It had blown in two of the windows in the kitchen and thrown the glass into the wall on the other side of the room.”

Mrs Scott had only moved into her home in the picturesque Yorkshire Dales on Monday with her husband and baby daughter and said they are now facing thousands of pounds of repairs.

She phoned her neighbours after the storm passed to check they were ok, with local farmers telling her their sheep were running around in confusion.

Describing “eerie” scenes afterwards, Mrs Scott said white mist filled the valley and cows were “making a lot of noise”.

Linda Scott photographed mist rising from hail-covered fields in the Yorkshire Dales after the storm

Nearby Ravensworth Nurseries, in Richmond, had thousands of panes of glass in its greenhouses smashed, leaving a scene of devastation.

Jonny Bradbrook said many of the panes were left with “bullet holes” and the broken glass has also wrecked some of his stock.

“I've never known anything like it,” he added. “They were as big as golf balls. I think there might be 5,000 panes gone but I'll know for sure later…we've had floods before but nothing like this.”

The carnage came as powerful thunderstorms moved through the UK at the end of a day that saw temperatures peak at 36.7C in London.

More than 19,500 lighting strikes were recorded up until 10am today by the Met Office, which has issued a yellow warning for “severe and isolated” storms across much of England for the next three days.

Forecasters warned that the continuing heat was generating large amounts of energy that could cause “torrential downpours and large hail”, along with the possibility of flash flooding and lightning damage.

The Tornado and Storm Research Organisation issued a tornado warning for parts of the Midlands yesterday but the existence of “supercell” thunderstorms that can spawn them have not yet been confirmed.

Engineers are enduring the searing temperatures today to reconnect hundreds of householders hit by a power cut during a lightning storm yesterday in the north-east.

It left 40,000 homes without electricity in parts of North Yorkshire, County Durham, Tyne and Wear and Northumberland.

Northern Powergrid said power had been restored to 32,500 of its customers by 7pm and work was continuing to make sure the rest were connected by this afternoon.

Additional reporting by PA