Millions of bank holiday plans were dashed yesterday as heavy rain and thunderstorms swept across southern parts of the country with equally bad weather forecast for today.
Congestion on the roads was reported on Saturday, after a promisingly sunny start to the holiday weekend encouraged people to take to their cars and enjoy the warm weather. But heavy rain fell in southern England during the early hours of yesterday morning, forcing the Met Office to issue severe weather warnings to five areas in the south of the country.
Northern areas of Britain experienced by far the best of the weekend's weather, with temperatures reaching 18C in parts of western Scotland. Similarly warm weather is expected in Glasgow and the north-west of Ireland today, although parts of northern England could see some scattered showers.
Chris Almond, a Met Office forecaster, said yesterday: "The weekend has only been a washout for southern parts of the country really. It has certainly been fairly wet in parts, but there's been quite a lot of sunshine in the north with some reasonably high temperatures. Monday looks like being a repeat performance, with thundery rain moving up through the south while further north things remain fairly dry."
Some of yesterday's heaviest rain fell in Wales, and just across the border in Herefordshire fire crews were called to the Hay-on-Wye literary festival after the site was flooded. One visitor, Mike Barnes, 61, said yesterday: "We're actually thinking of going home tomorrow if it stays like this, because it's warmer in the north of England. You only have to look around to contrast the scene today to yesterday, when children were running around and people were sitting in deckchairs." Barring a mass exodus to the north today, congestion on the roads is expected to be minimal, with many people choosing to remain indoors rather than brave the wind and rain. However, about 18 million cars were expected to be on the move during the bank holiday weekend, and the RAC warned motorists planning to return home today to be careful on the wet roads.
A spokesman said: "The weather has already put a lot of people off going out, so the volume of traffic should be pretty normal. Usually the coastal roads start to fill up a lot more when it's sunny, but the rain has put a stop to that."
The rail network looked to be coping well, with the majority of trains running on time. Network Rail said it had no concerns about passenger delays ahead of today's expected downpours.