Whilst the national attention on yesterday’s flooding and mass weather disruption was focused on the capital, Essex was also left battered and bruised by the severe weather.
Forecasters had been predicting a day of extreme weather the night before, but no one was prepared for the images we saw from across the county.
Roads were flooded, homes and businesses were threatened by rising water, and the transport network ground to a halt.
Read more: Tornado seen above Essex town as severe thunderstorms hit county
At one point, the M11 was forced to shut because of surface water on the road, and trains were blocked by floodwater in stations across the Greater Anglia network.
The fire service were reportedly “inundated” with calls for help.
We covered the day’s events as they happened, as thousands of Essex residents faced the effects of the weather.
Here’s how yesterday’s weather situation progressed.
Forecasters predict harsh weather
Forecasters at Essex Weather predicted the harsh day of weather ahead in a tweet on Saturday evening.
They said: “Severe weather possible during Sunday.
“Flash flooding (main risk), frequent lightning and short-lived tornadoes.
“Suffolk, Kent and Essex prime risk areas.”
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They followed up the warning with another prediction ahead on Sunday morning (July 25).
Essex Weather tweeted: “Severe weather today with flash flooding likely where showers develop and become slow-moving.
“Frequent lightning, gusty winds and large hail also possible.
“Greatest risk between 14:00 and 19:00 BST in central and western districts of Essex.”
Met Office yellow warning
Initially, the Met Office has placed a yellow weather warning across Essex for thunderstorms.
This warning covered all the county, and warned of disruption caused by the heavy rain brought on by thunderstorms.
At the start of Sunday, the warning read: “Heavy showers and thunderstorms may lead to flooding and transport disruption in places today.
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“Spray and sudden flooding could lead to difficult driving conditions and some road closures.
“Where flooding or lightning strikes occur, there is a chance of delays and some cancellations to train and bus services.
“Flooding of homes and businesses could happen quickly, with damage to some buildings from floodwater, lightning strikes, hail or strong winds.
“Power cuts might occur and other services to some homes and businesses could be lost.”
(Image: Met Office)
According to Met Office maps, heavy rain began to fall over parts of Essex shortly before 3.30pm.
Weather maps showed downpours of more than 32mm of rain an hour falling across Essex – the highest measured by the Met Office’s rainfall radar.
These downpours were indeed falling across central and western areas, but the clouds and downpours were staying around in western Essex and east London the most, with downpours joined by more cloud formations.
Ultimately, the persistent heavy rain brought a month’s worth of rain in a couple hours.
Tornado hits Braintree
(Image: Georgina June Heather Connolly)
Soon after 3.30pm, funnel clouds were spotted in Braintree, Essex.
Photos captured the tornadoes above the town, causing scenes never normally seen in Essex.
Essex Weather would later confirm that four significant funnel clouds were reported in Braintree, Romford and other Essex areas.
No significant damage was caused though.
North Circular Road and M11 floods as rain makes landfall
(Image: Sophie Toumazos)
The first major disruptions were felt in and around Woodford in east London.
Surface water built up on the M11 slip road to the North Circular Road, forcing police to shut off the road.
Eventually, the entire southbound M11 was shut between the M25 and North Circular Road junctions.
Photos showed cars abandoned on the carriageway, with emergency services helping them.
Eventually, roads across east London were flooded, especially across the boroughs of Barking and Dagenham and Waltham Forest.
Barking and Dagenham Council tweeted: “FLOODING WARNING – 4.48pm | Following the heavy rain, we’re aware of flooding across some parts of the borough.
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“Our teams will be out trying to clear the water as quickly as possible.
“If you have to go out, please drive carefully.”
MP for Walthamstow Stella Creasy would later tweet: “Walthamstow if anyone has any spare sandbags, or sand to make them and bags!
“Please get in touch as local small businesses in desperate need? Thank you!”
Met Office raising warning level
Soon, the Met Office would place an Amber warning across much of Essex, including towns like Harlow, Waltham Abbey and Loughton.
A Met Office spokesperson said: “Heavy showers and isolated thunderstorms are likely to cause surface water flooding.
“Flooding of homes and businesses is likely and could happen quickly, with damage to some buildings from floodwater and isolated lightning strikes.
“Where flooding or lightning strikes occur, delays and some cancellations to train and bus services are likely.
(Image: Twitter: @philaspery)
“Spray and sudden flooding probably leading to difficult driving conditions and some road closures.”
The Fire Service would also put out a statement saying they were being inundated with calls for help in these areas.
The Essex County Fire and Rescue Service’s Group Manager Mark Eaglestone said: “Our Control team have been inundated with calls related to heavy thunderstorms and flash flooding in North West Essex this afternoon.
“Firefighters from across the County have been working very hard to help as many people as possible who are experiencing flooding to their homes particularly in the Chigwell and Harlow areas.
“We are prioritising incidents which involve vulnerable members of the community and flooded properties with serious safety concerns such as where water is affecting electrics.
“If you or someone you know is currently experiencing flooding to their home our advice is:
- If possible block your doorway as best you can to stop water entering your home
- Move yourself and any personal belongings upstairs
- Do not try to walk or drive through flood water – the roadway may be damaged and it is very common for man holes to be displaced during floods which pose an extra risk
- If the flooding is not affecting residential properties, please call your local authority to help
- The fire service are unable to provide sandbags
“We are expecting the rain to reduce within the next hour, but there will still be a substantial amount of standing water so more flooding is possible.
“We will continue to help as many people as possible.”
Trains completely blocked
Meanwhile, Greater Anglia were suffering from flooding affecting regular travel out of London Liverpool Street.
The line was flooded between London Liverpool Street and Romford, meaning no trains could navigate this area of track.
It meant no services were leaving London Liverpool Street on any line, having a knock on effect on the whole Greater Anglia network.
The c2c Rail network was busier as a result.
Photos at Liverpool Street Station showed crowds packed together awaiting information as trains were cancelled across the board.
Elsewhere on the travel network, videos went viral online showing the Pudding Mill Lane DLR station in Stratford completely flooded.
The Met Office weather warning was lifted at 7pm, and things slowly got back to normal thereafter.
However, damage left a large impact on the situation, especially on the Essex and London border.
Redbridge Council were forced to set up an emergency centre to offer free accommodation for those left effected by the rain.
Jas Athwal, Leader of Redbridge Council, tweeted: “We have officers out across Redbridge – if you have been flooded please let the council know: 02087085000.
(Image: Twitter: @LBBD_LWW)
“We are offering support and free overnight accommodation to all affected.
“Tonight please stay safe and continue to look out for our neighbours.”
Greater Anglia didn’t get back to normal until this morning, following further disruption caused by a fallen tree, and the M11 didn’t reopen until 6am this morning.
Ultimately, it was a day to forget across Essex and east London, even if much of the county stayed relatively dry.
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