Sinkholes close motorway as floods cause travel chaos for millions with roads and rail tracks underwater
SINKHOLES closed the M25 as relentless thunderstorms and flash floods sparked weather warnings and travel chaos for millions across England today.
Cars and rail tracks were submerged after more than a month's rain fell in just 24 hours in parts of Kent and East Sussex.
Two sinkholes were also discovered after a lorry crash – forcing parts of the M25 to close overnight.
And there's no sign the downpours will stop any time soon – with Met Office yellow weather warnings in place until Thursday at the earliest.
Many parts of southern England have been completely submerged after heavy thunderstorms rolled in on Monday.
Kent and East Sussex have seen the worst of the intense rainfall – but deluges have also affected parts of the South West, South Wales and East Anglia.
Today's yellow weather warning forecast "heavy prolonged rainfall" across the Midlands and most of the North of England.
Thousands of families in the West Country were put on sandbag alert this morning after last night's torrential rain – with 37 flood alerts and three flood warnings in place across the country.
The downpours led to flooding across roads and railway lines, causing problems with power-supply and signalling equipment.
Network Rail South East added: "Across the region, we suffered over a month's rainfall in just one day and in some areas, the downpours equated to 2 month's rain.
"We've been constantly monitoring the weather and despite handling the brunt yesterday, the deluge overnight overwhelmed some drainage systems.
"However, despite our efforts we still suffered a number of flood issues."
More than 80 homes were blacked out by power cuts this morning in St Austell, Cornwall, and Torquay, Devon.
Meanwhile, a home was destroyed in Dartmoor when a lightning strike hit its thatched roof about 11pm last night.
Police in Kent warned that drivers taking to the roads today should remain vigilant and strictly follow signs advising them to slow down.
And they said that parts of the busy M20 motorway had vanished under standing water.
The force tweeted: "The M20 Junction 1-2 where river has burst its banks and now flooding all three lanes of carriageway.
"Amazingly drivers are ignoring warning advising them to slow down!"
Meanwhile in Norfolk, a woman escaped serious injury after her car skidded and plunged off the A1122 in the rain.
Police arrived to find just the roof of the car visible above the water but the woman – who was alone in the vehicle – was alive.
An elderly woman, in her 80s, also had to be rescued from her flooded home along with her dog by Kent Fire and Rescue.
The combination of rain and thunderstorms earlier led the Met Office to issue amber warnings for most of the South East – stretching from Oxford to the Kent coast.
It warned homes and businesses are “likely to be flooded” and “fast-flowing floodwater is possible – causing danger to life”.
These warnings have since been downgraded to less severe – but still impactful – yellow alerts covering the South West, Eastern and Central England.
Two police officers were taken to hospital after their car crashed in the bad weather on the A1M just south of Stevenage last night.
Elsewhere, London's North Circular Road was flooded between Charlie Brown's roundabout and Waterworks Corner.
Kingston Bridge was closed due to flooding on the underpass and while it was reopened last night congestion in the area was causing traffic to move slowly.
Kent Police earlier warned against all but "absolutely necessary" road travel following a series of collisions.
Posting on Twitter, the force said: "Countless calls of roads flooded, some over a foot deep, around the county and cars stranded.
"We are doing what we can but please don't make it worse by trying to get through. Stay home, stay safe."
Surrey Police have also warned about flooding in the county – telling drivers to slow down.
In a message on Twitter, the force said: "We are attending a lot of RTC’s due to drivers driving too fast for the conditions.
"Slow down, increase braking distances and brake gently.
"Take all the speed you need to take off for a bend, before the bend and not on it."
The Met office warned this week would see "particularly intense" rain and thunderstorms rolling across southern and eastern parts of England.
Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill said "If you add it all up some places are likely to see over 100mm this week, which is around double the average they would get in the whole of June."
Met Office meteorologist Luke Miall told The Sun Online there was also a danger of flooding and surface flooding on roads in many areas.
The weather conditions would mean high temperatures in affected areas will stay well below average for this week – hovering around the 12-14C mark.
Elsewhere, parts of North West Scotland would be warmer at 17-18C – while temperatures in the south east though could hit 19C today.
Summer washout – Why is the weather in England so bad?
LOW pressure sweeping in from the North has combined with hot, humid air rising from Europe to unleash a barrage of thunderstorms over England this week.
Warm air is being drawn across the channel by the low pressure system – combining with moisture in the atmosphere.
This combination of humid, moist air, low pressure and warm temperatures is a recipte for intense downpours.
Met Office forecasters expect the worst of the weather will not pass until the end of the week.
The EA added: "We are actively monitoring the situation and are prepared to respond if required."
Bookies have slashed the odds on this month being the wettest June on record.
Coral has cut its odds from 5/4 to 1/2.
John Hill, a spokesman for the betting firm, said: "With a yellow weather warning in place, this week could be one of the wettest of the year.
"As a result, we have slashed the odds on this month being a record wet June.
“Not only is this week going to be a washout, the betting suggests the wind speed could reach as high as 100mph in mainland UK.
"So at the moment, summer seems a long way off."
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