89. The Freak Storm of 1925
It was like a scene from a blockbuster disaster movie in the end, but how it all began was a mystery, like so many freakish weather shows. The Kentish Mercury and Kentish Independent of the 24th July were both on hand to record the events of the 21st and 22nd July 1925.
It had been the hottest afternoon for two years, reaching 90 degrees. The humidity rose when the thunder began to rumble around 5pm - it was no real surprise, but what bizarre weather accompanied the roars shocked the eastern half of the capital, with Eltham, Woolwich, Plumstead and Shooters Hill being bombarded, before the strange wave of a storm moved towards Erith and Bexleyheath.
At 6pm the streets were flooding, buses and fire engines stranded in the middle of torrents which swept through the roads, lightning reached from the heavens as fire alarms beeped uncontrollably from battered buildings, and then came the blitz of the ice. No-one had seen anything like it before, pounding hailstones that reached the size of eggs, crashing onto vehicles, some of these jagged spikes measuring up to four inches as lawns were turned white in minutes and a tornado-like force swept through upper Plumstead, hammering pedestrians for ten minutes, windows shattering under the barrage as huge pellet-like objects ended up on the floor of homes. Such was the severity of the hail that birds were killed as they sat sheltering in trees, fields of cows and horses were turned to chaos as bewildered animals ran to avoid the storm, these vicious chards cutting flesh and ripping clothing as they rained from the zenith.
One of the hailstones found at Abbey Wood weighed 10 1/2 oz, and at Woolwich one weighed over a pound; huge lumps of ice were discovered at Eltham and the Conservative Club at Belvedere had a six-inch hole in its roof made by one giant piece of ice.
The storm then ceased suddenly, but returned again later, running through to midnight but without the ice attack. Although the world refused to end on this particular July, for the residents besieged by the storm, it must have felt like all Hell had broken loose...
Photo by Maria Keays on flickr