The UK could get more than two months’ rainfall in just a few hours as thunderstorms move in across the country.
Forecasters are preparing for a “worst-case scenario” of up to 150mm this afternoon and this evening in some places – more than twice the 70mm average for the month of August – with heavy rainfall already reported across Devon and Cornwall in the south-west of England.
The worst affected areas are expected to be between Birmingham and Cumbria, from around 4pm on Monday, although almost the whole of the UK is covered by a Met Office weather warning between now and Thursday evening.
It follows an intense period of very hot weather which saw temperatures reach 34C at Herstmonceux in East Sussex on Sunday, the fourth consecutive day the thermometers passed 30C in the south of England – although there is every chance hot weather will remain, with temperatures of up to 36C possible across the south coast at the beginning part of the week.
Bonnie Diamond, a meteorologist with the Met Office, said: “There is a pretty broad warning in place today, but there is another for central UK – the Midlands up to the North West of England to about Cumbria, and into Wales – which we are watching really closely.
“We are looking at the potential for some thunderstorms there from about 4pm to the early hours.
“It’s a worst-case scenario – a caution, really, for what could happen – but we are looking at a potential for 150mm rain in three or four hours.
“Normally for August you’re looking at around 70mm for the month, so it’s potentially a lot of rain.
“To get that much it will take some areas seeing frequent thunderstorms, and not just passing through.”
Ms Diamond said there had been some thunderstorms in the south-west of England on Monday morning, while temperatures across the country remain humid, particularly in the south-east of England.
#Thunderstorms are already affecting parts of the west and southwest, bringing some torrential downpours in places.#Thunderstorm warnings are in force for large swathes of the UK. Latest info 👉 https://t.co/QwDLMfRBfs
— Met Office (@metoffice) August 10, 2020
She said: “Things can change at short notice, and the thunderstorms can come on quite quickly, so people may want to monitor the up-to-date forecasts and our Twitter feed to make sure they don’t get caught out in it.”
The far north of Scotland is the only part of the UK not currently covered by Monday’s broad weather warning.
Northern Ireland is also affected from Monday until Wednesday.
The Met Office warned that flash flooding could cause travel disruption and power cuts, but also cautioned about the risks caused by fast flowing or deep floodwater.
It came as a 12-year-old girl died after going missing in the River Leven, near Balloch Bridge, Loch Lomond, in the west of Scotland on Sunday evening. Her body was discovered by emergency services hours later.
In Norfolk, a woman in her 30s died after getting into difficulties in the sea at Waxham on Sunday.
HM Coastguard dealt with 340 incidents across the whole of the UK on Saturday – the highest number of call-outs in a single day for well over four years. There were a further 335 incidents on Sunday.
Yesterday, we responded to 335 incidents at the coast 🌊
❇️ Coastguard Rescue Team: 223❇️ Aircraft: 31❇️ @RNLI / Independent Lifeboat: 129
In total, 167 people were rescued and we assisted a further 386 👍
— HM Coastguard (@HMCoastguard) August 10, 2020
In Dorset, traffic police said a colleague stopped a father with four children arriving near the coastal beauty spot Durdle Door, only to find it had closed.
The group had travelled down from Birmingham and spent more than six hours in their vehicle only to be turned back, police said.
The current heatwave is nowhere near the infamous summer of 1976, one of the longest in living memory in the UK, when temperatures reached 32C or higher somewhere in the country for 15 consecutive days.