Havoc as heatwave gives way to storms
STORMS and torrential rain battered the Westcountry at the weekend, causing havoc for emergency services, tourists and homeowners.
Fire and rescue services and ambulance crews were called to numerous weather-related incidents.
Where has the sunshine gone? Shoppers in Exeter brave the weekend's wet conditions
In Cornwall yesterday, a tornado was spotted by a man flying a model plane in Poundstock, near Bude.
Derrick Prescott saw the formation at about 3.30pm and just had time to grab his camera to get a shot.
He said: "A tornado is not something you see every day and it was there for no more than a couple of minutes."
It did not reach the ground before it broke up and there were no reports that it had caused any damage.
Mr Prescott said he had been out flying his model aeroplane for a few hours yesterday and the weather changed dramatically through the afternoon, with cloud and rain one minute and sunshine the next.
"It was very strange," he said.
The weekend storms stretched from the Westcountry across South Wales, Wiltshire, to East Sussex.
They left a trail of flooded properties and lightning-struck properties in their wake and one family had to be winched to safety after becoming trapped by rough seas on the South Devon coast.
In Exeter, almost double the monthly rainfall fell in just 13 hours.
Dave Elliott, a forecaster at the Met Office, said 93mm (3.6in) fell in Exeter between 8am and 9pm on Saturday. The local average rainfall for June is 50mm (1.9in). In the first hour alone, 27mm (1in) of rain fell on the city when a thunderstorm rolled overhead.
Although thunderous downpours are expected in the summertime, Mr Elliott said it was "quite unusual" to get that amount of rainfall in one location.
In Whipton, Exeter, two fire engines were sent to a blaze involving a television aerial that was hit by lightning just after 9am on Saturday.
Soon afterwards, firefighters were called to Triscombe, in Tiverton, Mid-Devon, where a house had been hit by lightning, starting a fire in a fusebox.
Devon firefighters dealt with a number of flooding incidents. Among the worst-hit was Lady's Mile Holiday Park in Dawlish, where about 3ft of floodwater was reported on the roads and in buildings on Saturday afternoon.
Firefighters were called to the park at about 5.20pm and used high-volume pumps to get rid of the water.
It took them about five hours to deal with the flooding.
The car park of Clifton Hill Sports Centre in Exeter was also flooded, affecting the centre's electrics. Again, firefighters used large ejector pumps to clear the floodwater.
Flooding was also reported at properties in Crediton, Dawlish, Torquay and Paignton. Kayakers helped to rescue stranded holidaymakers off Teignmouth (see story below).
In Dawlish, fire crews pumped water out of four properties in Brookdale Terrace while in Paignton, they pumped 16 inches of rainwater and sewage out of two basements in Dartmouth Road.
Yesterday morning, firefighters were called to help save a listed building in Somerset from flooding.
A temporary weir at Hainbury Mill Farm, Ilchester, South Somerset, was full of backed-up water and at risk of collapse, said a fire service spokesman.
Firefighters pumped water from one side of the dam to another, relieving the pressure on the weir and saving the listed mill and building from flooding.
Forecaster Mr Elliott said the heavy rain and stormy weather was caused by a line of thunderstorms which developed in the Exe Valley on Saturday. Rather than being blown away by the wind, they stayed in the same place.
This meant Exeter and much of Devon saw almost relentless rain throughout Saturday, while in Cornwall, downpours in the morning had largely cleared by the afternoon.
The weather also caused a number of power cuts across the region.
A spokesman for Western Power Distribution said that homes in Topsham, Lapford, Tiverton, Whiddon Down and Marsh Green were hit and at one stage, there were about 2,000 people without power. However, all supplies had been restored by Saturday evening.
Thunder and lightning storms also caused chaos for motorists and at one stage on Saturday, several cars were left stranded on the M5 near Exeter.
Rainwater also built up at Countess Wear in Exeter, causing traffic disruption when a car became stuck after water reached the sill of the vehicle.
Conditions in Exeter had recovered yesterday but Mr Elliott said heavy and thunderous showers were still breaking out across Dartmoor and Exmoor during the course of the day.
But he said these were expected to die out during the evening and today should see some finer weather, although there would still be some showers around.