A huge clean-up operation was being carried out in parts of Britain today after yesterday's downpours brought flooding chaos to parts of the country. Hailstones as big as golf balls pummelled parts of Leicestershire after black thunderclouds descended. Residents reported cars being dented and damaged by the ice, some even smashing windows.

Torrential storms also left hundreds of homes flooded and motorists having to be rescued from their vehicles. At the storm's peak, 153 lightning strikes were being recorded every minute. The Environment Agency has 10 flood warnings in place in the Midlands, North East and North West, but the worst of the weather looks to be over.

Forecaster Nick Prebble, said: "Today there will be a mixture of sunshine and showers across the UK with temperatures cooling off. "Most parts of Britain could experience the odd passing shower during the day, but the focus of the heavy downpours will be across Scotland. "Northern parts could also have a few thunder storms but the weather doesn't appear to be as severe as yesterday."

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Floodwaters rise around stranded cars as the rain teems down in Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne where roads were transformed into lakes in a matter of seconds
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Today train services between Scotland and England have been axed in the wake of yesterday's freak deluges that saw rail lines disappear underwater, landslips and fallen trees.

In Shropshire yesterday, a 66-year-old retired schoolteacher was swept to his death when a normally gentle brook burst its banks after two hours of torrential rain causing a flash flood.

Michael Ellis, 66, a retired deputy headteacher had been driving home after having blood tests at a nearby doctor's surgery when the sudden floods cut him off in the village of Bittlerley, near Ludlow, just half-a-mile from his home.

Mr Ellis, who lived in the village with his wife Judith, 68, for more than 10 years, abandoned the silver Ford Ka by some farm buildings and attempted to make his way back home by foot.

But he only managed to walk 100 yards before he was swept away.

Witnesses said the man's body was found nearby after the emergency services launched a huge search as heavy rain hit.

Local councillor and farmer Richard Huffer, 50, said he had known Mr Ellis since he was taught by him at a secondary school in nearby Ludlow more than three decades ago.

He said: 'He taught me maths at Ludlow School and I am 50, he has been in the village that amount of time.

'He was a very well respected member of the community. He has helped me a lot in my work as a councillor and I have very fond memories of him as a member of the community and as a friend.

'He will be deeply missed. His wife is in shock.'

Mr Huffer said Mr Ellis had parked his car - a Kia Sportage 4x4 - in a layby to avoid driving through the floods and attempted to walk through a field towards his home in the village.

He said: 'He's parked his car here and cut across through a gate on the right hand side and tried to cross the brook at a higher level.
'Obviously he has got swept away.

It was a different story down south as tennis fans fainted in the heat at Wimbledon yesterday. But in the Midlands enough ice fell to keep the whole of London cool.

In a dramatic demonstration of our mad weather, large swathes of northern and central Britain were hammered by rolling storms while the South sweltered during one of the hottest days of the year so far.


Hail: The ground looks like it is covered in snow in Queniborough, Leicestershire, following a storm this afternoon
The picturesque town of Appleby was particularly badly hit, many homes were pumped out and the local primary school had its play area flooded.

In Tyneside trains were cancelled at Central station in Newcastle and Gateshead's MetroCentre and Ikea store were evacuated.

Witnesses described an announcement of a "technical fault" at the MetroCentre before water burst into the building and flooded shop floors.

Flood alerts were issued across the North East as tributaries to the region's rivers threatened to burst.

In Northumberland, police warned motorists to take care as they received reports of flooding around Haltwhistle, Greenhead Bank and all along the A69 and A68.

Half a month's rain fell in just an hour this morning as the severe storm hit across the Midlands. In Scampton, Lincolnshire, 25.8mm of rain fell between 1pm and 2pm.

Rita Gatehouse, 66, said: 'Mike had been to doctors for blood tests and was driving home.

Apocalyptic: Newcastle was shrouded in daytime darkness as a 'Supercell' thunderstorm passed, turning the roads into rivers and daytime into dark night
'He found himself stranded by the flood waters and couldn't drive through - so he got out and walked. He must have been trying to find a different way around when he got into difficulties.'

He also ran a Girl Guides group with his wife Judith. The couple did not have any children.

Earlier, 22.2m fell in Winterbourne, West Midlands, as a weather front moved across the country. And Shrobdon, Herefordshire, had 37mm of rain between 6am and midday today - with most of the wet weather coming during a three-hour period.

Henry Chance, chairman of Bitterley Parish Council, where a man died, said: 'This flooding is the worst I can ever remember in living memory.

'The water down there is usually nothing more than a brook - its just a trickle.

'You wouldn't even know there was any kind of waterway running through Bitterley - you could walk up and down it in wellies.

In Birstall, Leicestershire, hailstones the size of golf balls fell this afternoon - smashing a car window in the process.

The hailstones - which measured up to 6cm (2.3ins) in diameter - fell during an hour long storm which started at around 1pm.

Sian Colver, 29, said: 'The weather is just crazy, one minute everything was normal with blue skies and then suddenly all you could hear was what sounded like bullets hitting rooves and windows.

'I was shocked when I saw the size of them, they were like golf balls.'

But as parts of the country were hit by wet weather, London and the south of England remained dry this afternoon as the fourth day of tennis got underway at Wimbledon.

Whopper: A freak 14cm-long hailstone which fell in Leicestershire
Temperatures of 28C were recorded in Gravesend while there was 27C in London

A black and white image shows hundreds of lightning strikes as red crosses stretching from Wales in the West across as far as Derbyshire.

Dan Quirk, 34, a deputy headteacher from Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, said he had never seen such a sudden and sharp hour of rain before.

He said: 'It was like Birmingham-on-Sea, I have never seen it come down that fast or with such power, it was incredible.'The road was literally turned into a river in just a few minutes.'A 90-year-old man had to be rescued from his car by fire crews in Worfield, Shropshire, as three feet of water rose around his car on the A454.

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service said the 90-year-old man was one of a number of people rescued from vehicles following downpours in the Bridgnorth area of the county.

Herefordshire Council said a number of roads across the county were submerged, with severe localised flooding affecting Orleton, Brimfield, Yarpole and Kingsland.

The Environment Agency urged people to be on alert for more flash flooding across the Midlands and northern England as the Met Office forecast outbreaks of torrential rain across many central and northern parts of the country.

Thunderclap: A home video shows a bolt of lightning striking the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle
There is a continued risk of surface water flooding this afternoon and into the evening if drainage systems are overwhelmed by rainfall.

The heavy rain could also cause rivers to rise rapidly, the Environment Agency warned. It said the public should stay away from swollen rivers and not drive through floodwater.

West Mercia Police said the Redditch Ringway had been closed after a 66ft section of wall collapsed and caused two trees to fall into the carriageway this morning.

Structural engineers were due to assess the damage following the incident. The fire service said Bromsgrove in north Worcestershire had been badly affected by heavy downpours in the area.

Crews received about 30 calls from north Herefordshire between 8.30am and 10am, with another 30 from north Worcestershire later in the morning. The Environment Agency said up to 35mm of rain had fallen in one hour in Herefordshire.

Worcestershire County Council said Westacre Middle School in Droitwich had been closed after a downstairs classroom was flooded.

Calamity: A car is submerged in Gateshead by the Athletics stadium. Motorists were left stranded up to their windows in the rush hour superstorm
London Midland tweeted that lines are blocked after flooding between Barnt Green and Bromsgrove in north Worcestershire. Gemma Plumb, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, said that there would be more wet weather to come over the next few days - although not on the scale of this morning.

'The Midlands will see further heavy showers and thunderstorms this afternoon but it should clear during the evening,' she said.

'There will be further heavy showers in north Wales and it is looking like there will be further rain across the north-east, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

'There is a chance of rain at Wimbledon later and we cannot rule out the possibility of showers across the south where it has been largely dry.

'The heavy thundery rain will move away from the north-east overnight but there will be further showers around tomorrow and at the weekend with some of them heavy - but not as bad as today.'

Floodwaters rise around stranded cars as the rain teems down in Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne where roads were transformed into lakes in a matter of seconds
Earlier, Prime Minister David Cameron was confronted by a voter today as he visited one of the towns affected by devastating floods last week.

Mr Cameron was leaving the town hall in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, when Kathleen Simpson surprised him as he was getting into his car.Mr Cameron had just left a meeting with council officials and emergency services workers about the deluge which hit the town on Friday night.

Before he left Todmorden Town Hall today, Mr Cameron said: 'First of all, one's sympathy just goes out to people who had their homes flooded and have seen so many treasured possessions destroyed.

'But what you see is an incredibly strong community come together with real purpose - very positive - to help each other out.

'It really needs to be said to thank everyone who took part in it. The Government stands by to help in any way we can.

The council's doing a good job. We will fill in any gaps if that's required.'The Prime Minister added: 'This is a beautiful area of our country and it's absolutely open for business.'

Mr Cameron talked about investment in flood relief but said: 'That will never protect everybody. 'There was a month's rain that fell in 24 hours. 'You can't protect against some of that but we'll do everything we can.'

Soaking: Torchbearer Glenn Chambers carries the Olympic flame between Edwinstowe and Mansfield, during a heavy downpour today