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24 September 2014
Inside Out: Surprising Stories, Familiar Places

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   Inside Out - South: Monday 7th October, 2002


Weatherman with map

Weather can behave in some very strange ways, baffling not only the public but the experts.

Raining coal, avalanches, giant hailstones and tornadoes are just some of the weird weather experiences to have hit southern England over the last century.

We look at southern England's oddest meteorological moments ..

Strange Southern storms

The South has had more than its fair share of strange meteorological experiences.

An avalanche crashes down on Lewes

One of the most dramatic weird weather events happened to Lewes in 1836.

An avalanche hit the town on Christmas Eve, killing eight people.

This meteorological event was unique in lowland Britain.

A huge ridge of snow had built up on the top of some chalk cliffs overlooking the town.

Then suddenly there was a roar and it it collapsed onto the town below.

Stormy Weather

The great storm of 1958 in Sussex produced the biggest ever hailstones experienced in Britain. Stones the size of cricket balls fell on local people.

Watch out. Unsuspecting pleasure seekers have been caught up in freak weather!

There were also nearly 2,000 flashes of lightning in just one hour.

During the storm of June 1983 in Dorset, coke and coal fell out of the sky onto the hapless yachtsmen out for a pleasant day's sailing in Poole harbour.

And the small unremarkable village of Martinstown in Dorset also has its claim to fame.

One day in July 1955 the tourists got a lot more than they had bargained for when the town experienced the heaviest ever rainfall to fall in one day in Britain.

Weird weather worldwide

Weird weather is a worldwide phenomena. Here's Inside Out's potted guide to some of the planet's amazing meteorological puzzles.

One of the weirdest happened in 1968 when southern England was covered by a shower of red dust.

It was actually sand blown over 1,000 miles inside a massive high pressure system from the Sahara desert in Africa. It fell as red rain!

Over the centuries there's been records of birds, frogs and other animals raining down from the skies.

During a thunderstorm in 1939 in Wiltshire, the heavens opened and frogs fell on local residents.

Animal showers are often the result of small animals being sucked up by waterspouts, tornadoes and powerful updrafts.

Even the Loch Nech Monster can be explained by weird weather.

Small whirlwinds forming over warm waters can spin off a long tunnel funnel of water, resembling a sea monster.

Forecasting the weather

Before satellite weather pictures and weather forecasters, most people relied on observing the weather for themselves, often using nature as their guide.

So if you're trying to predict the weather in southern England, here's our guide to weather folklore.

  • Red sky at night - Shepherd's delight
  • Mare's tails - Storms and gales
  • Yellow sky at sunset - Wind in the morning
  • Mackerel sky - 'Never long wet, never long dry'
  • Cows sitting down - Good chance of a downpour
  • Seabirds - Never good weather when birds are on sand

With changing weather and global warming, it's likely that we haven't seen the last of the weird weather phenomena.

See also ...


On the rest of the web
Weird Weather
The Met Office
Changing Climate organisation
Friends of the Earth
European Centre for midrange weather forecasts
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology

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