Thunder and lightning has moved in to southern England after a sweltering day with temperatures reaching 86F (30C) as forecasters predict 63 hours of storms and a dramatic plunge in temperatures.
A lightning strike hit Arlington Reservoir in Berwick, East Sussex, at 8pm on Wednesday - marking the first of a number of thunder storms expected over the next three days.
Some areas were today hotter than top European holiday destinations including Ibiza, St Tropez and Mykonos – during the 21st day in a row that maximum UK temperatures have got to at least 70F (21C).
This afternoon, the mercury in South East England was expected to exceed the 85.5F (29.7C) recorded at Bushy Park in Teddington, South West London, on Monday which is currently the hottest day of 2021 so far.
The hottest temperature recorded as of 4pm today was 82F (29C) at London City Airport, while 82F (28C) was observed at London Heathrow Airport, Norwich and Southend-on-Sea in Essex.
However, the Met Office issued yellow warnings of 'intense' thunderstorms lasting 63 hours from 6pm tonight until Saturday morning, stretching across large parts of England, including London and the South East.
And an allergy expert warned people with hayfever, who have suffered from sneezing and streaming eyes amid very a high pollen count in recent days, face fresh misery with the storms threatening so-called 'thunder fever'.
Crowds in front of the Palace Pier as people make the most of the hot weather on the beach in Brighton this afternoon
Lightning is pictured above Farthing Common in Kent as the country prepares for 63 hours of storms
Footage has emerged showing heavy rainfall in Kent as an intense storm hit the southern coast of England
The Met Office's yellow warnings mean people could see flooding to homes and businesses, communities becoming 'cut off', power cuts and delays to public transport following heavy rainfall.
Strong winds and hail could also pose problems while the Met Office said lightning strikes could cause delays to train and bus services.
Road closures could also follow while motorists have been warned to expect poor driving conditions.
The thunderstorms are the result of a small, low-pressure system moving in from Europe, with warmer surface-level air meeting colder upper air.
Storms began to build across the English Channel on Wednesday afternoon and reached the southern coast of England at around 7pm.
Forecaster Simon Partridge said: 'The rain will be pretty heavy with up to 30mm falling in quite a short timeframe.
'It will be a horrible night for many, especially when you're trying to get some sleep, remaining quite hot and humid in London and the South East, at around 17-18C, combined with the damp weather.'
It brings to an end days of sunshine in which the public has revelled, with thousands flocking to parks and beaches to soak up the rays.
Thunderstorms are expected to continue until the weekend.
Dominika Jasinska sunbathes by the River Thames at the Riverside Centre near Donnington Bridge in Oxford this afternoon
Two young women relax in the fountains at Battersea Park in South West London today as temperatures soar in the capital
A man dives into the sea while people enjoy the sunshine on Brighton beach in East Sussex this afternoon
Crowds of people enjoying the sunshine on Brighton beach in East Sussex this afternoon as temperatures soar
Dominika Jasinska dips her toes in the River Thames by the Riverside Centre near Donnington Bridge in Oxford today
People swim in the sea and sit on the pebbled beach in Brighton today as day-trippers flock to the East Sussex coast
Swimmers enjoy the hot weather at Jesus Green Lido in Cambridge today as temperatures soar once again
Swimmers cooled off from the heat at Jesus Green Lido in Cambridge on Wednesday
Swimmers are pictured at Jesus Green Lido in Cambridge on the hottest day of the year so far
Thousands descended on Brighton beach this afternoon to enjoy the last of the sweltering temperatures
A man dives into the sea whilst people enjoy the sunshine on Brighton beach in East Sussex this afternoon
Kayakers in the sunshine on the canal in Birmingham this afternoon as they make the most of the hot weather conditions
England's much-anticipated Euro 2020 clash with Scotland at Wembley Stadium on Friday evening could be hit with bands of 'heavy thundery showers', forecasters say.
However, most of Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern parts of Wales are expected to escape the wet weather, with these areas avoiding the yellow weather warnings.
Temperatures above 70F (21C) for 21st day in a row
Maximum temperatures in Britain got to at least 70F (21C) for the 21st day in a row today. Here are the UK highs for the past three weeks, including the hottest day of 2021 so far which was recorded on Monday:
- June 15: 79.9F (26.6C) - Heathrow Airport, London
- ** June 14: 85.5F (29.7C) - Teddington, London **
- June 13: 82.4F (28C) - Heathrow Airport, London
- June 12: 76.6F (24.8C) - Kew Gardens, London
- June 11: 78.1F (25.6C) - Heathrow Airport, London
- June 10: 76.5F (24.7C) - Heathrow Airport, London
- June 9: 79.5F (26.4C) - Hull, East Yorkshire
- June 8: 76.6F (24.8C) - St James's Park, London
- June 7: 76.3F (24.6C) - Coningsby, Lincolnshire
- June 6: 74.1F (23.4C) - St James's Park, London
- June 5: 75.2F (24C) - St James's Park, London
- June 4: 70.2F (21.2C) - Fyvie Castle, Aberdeenshire
- June 3: 76.5F (24.7C) - Santon Downham, Suffolk
- June 2: 82.9F (28.3C) - Northolt, London
- June 1 : 79F (26.1C) - Cardiff
- May 31 : 77.2F (25.1C) - Kinlochewe, Highlands
- May 30 : 75.2F (24C) - Achnagart, Highlands
- May 29 : 73.2F (22.9C) - Chivenor, Devon
- May 28 : 71.8F (22.1C) - Achnagart, Highlands
- May 27 : 71.6F (22C) - Wisley, Surrey
The last day the maximum was below 70F (21C) was May 26 when Killowen in County Down got to 65.5F (18.6C).
Wales hit 68F (20C) this evening, when football fans watched their nation take on Turkey in Euro 2020 in a 5pm kick-off at Baku's Olympic Stadium in zerbaijan.
Areas in central and southern England reached the low 80Fs (high 20Cs), while Northern Ireland and Scotland, which are seeing cloud and scattered showers, hit the mid-60Fs (high teens Celcius).
Another set of thunderstorms will then move in from Friday morning, with 'intense' showers leading to as much as 2.4in (60mm) of rain falling over 12 hours in the worst affected areas.
It comes as an allergy expert warned hayfever sufferers, who have faced a very high pollen count in recent days, face 'thunder fever' when the storms sweep in.
Thunder and lightning can split tiny pollen grains into super-irritant micro-particles - with a risk posed to hayfever sufferers by counts leaping to 'very high' across England on Saturday after remaining mostly 'high' for the next two days.
Airborne allergens expert Max Wiseberg said: 'After periods of hot weather, thunderstorms can break up pollen grains making them more potent causing a type of hay fever known as 'thunder fever'.
'This occurs because there is double the amount of irritant in the air made up of particles which are much smaller having been split apart.
'Thundery weather over the next few days following such high temperatures is likely to bring perfect conditions for this to happen.'
A recent explosion of grass and weed pollen, after lifting into the atmosphere on warm currents, will be washed to nose-level by torrential rain.
Mr Wiseberg, creator of HayMax allergen balms, added: 'This is a phenomenon known as 'upside-down hay fever' and is caused by alternating weather conditions.
'Although you would expect hay fever to calm down when the sunshine disappears and is replaced by rain, for some the reverse happens.
'Sufferers of this condition typically experience their symptoms starting at the wrong time.
'When the sun comes out and there is lots of pollen, their hay fever can ease, but on rainy days it gets worse and they end up sneezing more than usual.
'This is because as warm air rises it carries pollen high into the atmosphere, and when the rain comes, wallop, it brings it back down again where it can trigger hay fever.'
The Met Office has issued yellow warnings of thunderstorms lasting 63 hours from 6pm tonight until Saturday morning
Racegoers make the most of the warm and sunny conditions on day two of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse today
Women sit on the grass in their Royal Ascot outfits as they sip beverages on the hottest day of the year so far