It was calm before the storm this morning as rain was feared just 24 hours after sunseekers surged to beaches across Britain on what is the third hottest day ever recorded with temperatures hitting 100F.
On what was comfortably also the hottest day of 2020 so far, temperatures soared to 37.8C at London Heathrow on Friday afternoon, with even Leeds and Manchester reaching 88F (31C) and 79F (26C) in Newcastle and Wales.
Temperatures in England were mirroring those in Ibiza and the Costa del Sol, pleasing those whose holidays to Spain were cancelled, with the mercury now closing in on the all-time UK record of 101.7F (38.7C) set just last year.
But sun-drenched hours in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole could see rain today, with sizzle turning to drizzle in parts of the UK.
Yesterday saw Brighton and Hove City Council said it was ‘concerned’ about visitor numbers in the city, urging people to not travel there because it was ‘impossible’ to maintain social distancing amid limited capacity on public transport.
Sussex Police said ‘Camber is now full’, asking daytrippers not to travel there and warning that high numbers of visitors have previously caused traffic jams that have led to problems for the emergency services trying to get in.
The A3, leading from London towards Portsmouth, has also closed in both directions at Thursley after a lorry caught fire, the Roads Policing Unit for Surrey Police announced on Twitter.
Drivers have been urged to avoid the area between Hindhead and Guildford after the ‘large vehicle fire’, which has since spread to the grass verge. The Hindhead Tunnel has closed as a result and the division route is currently via the A31 and A287.
Surrey Police said on Twitter: ‘Due to the size of the fire this may take some time to extinguish and then an assessment on the condition of the road will need to be made before we can safely re-open it. Please AVOID the A3 between Hindhead and Guildford area.’
Foreign summer holidays are now looking increasingly risky after the Government’s last-minute announcement on Sunday that those travelling from Spain now need to self-isolate for 14 days following a spike in cases.
But disappointed holiday-goers no longer going abroad will be pleased that popular spots in Europe including Ibiza, Lisbon and Berlin will fall short of the UK high, reaching 91F (33C), 86F (30C) and 77F (25C) respectively.
Before today, Britain’s warmest day of 2020 so far was June 25 with 92.1F (33.4C) recorded at Heathrow, while the hottest day ever recorded in the UK was July 25 last year when Cambridge got up to 101.7F (38.7C).
The UK’s second hottest day on record was August 10, 2003 in Faversham, Kent, which got up to 101.3F (38.5C), and that in turn broke a previous record observed on August 3, 1990 when Cheltenham reached 98.8F (37.1C).
Yesterday, thousands descended on resorts from Cornwall to sunspots such as Lyme Regis in Dorset and Camber Sands in East Sussex as they soaked up the heat – mirroring scenes in May as lockdown restrictions were eased.
The sea at Woolacombe in Devon was busy with surfers as families crowded on to the popular beach. Holiday sites in the South West of England are getting booked up for the rest of the season amid the staycation boom.
A survey by MailOnline yesterday checked with 20 of the top campsites in Cornwall and 15 in Dorset if they had any space for two adults to stay a week from today. Not one had a spare lodge, pitch or campervan space.
In other places prices have soared, with one four-star hotel in Newquay, Cornwall, costing almost £350 a night. The current warm spell is due to a plume of warm air being drawn north from France and Spain.
Beachgoers have been urged to take precautions, including wearing sun cream and hats, as levels of ultraviolet radiation are predicted to be high.
But the heatwave is not due to last long as cooler conditions will move in through tomorrow and Sunday.
Andy Page from the Met Office said: ‘The bulk of England and Wales will have dry, very warm and sunny weather to end the week with Friday likely to be the hottest day of the year so far for the UK.
‘A few thunderstorms are possible later on Friday and then a cold front moves eastwards by Saturday.’
Tomorrow, temperatures are expected to reach only 77F (25C) in London and East Anglia. Further west and north, temperatures are unlikely to exceed 72F (22C).
The heatwave comes after what forecasters describe as an ‘autumnal’ start to the week, when an ‘unseasonably deep area of low pressure crossed the UK’.
It brought winds of up to 50mph, while 35.8mm (1.4 inches) of rain was recorded in Shap, Cumbria, on Monday.
The current warm spell, which began yesterday, involves a plume of warm air being drawn north from France and Spain by southerly winds.
The only respite from the heat could be in parts of Devon and Cornwall, where there is a chance of cloudier conditions.
Isolated thundery showers could be sparked by the high temperatures. A mixture of sunny spells, cloud and scattered showers is expected on Sunday.
For the first week and a half of August, the Met Office predicts the unsettled conditions ‘are likely to continue, with outbreaks of rain and scattered showers affecting all parts of the United Kingdom at times’.
Its forecast for the next ten days states: ‘The heaviest and most prolonged spells of rain are likely to be focussed towards the northwest, where it may also become quite windy at times with a risk of gales in exposed locations.
‘However, there should still be some drier and brighter spells in between the outbreaks of rain, with the driest of these conditions expected towards the South East.
‘Temperatures are likely to be slightly below average for this time of year, but perhaps near normal towards the South East.’
The short-lived heatwave comes at the end of an unseasonably chilly July. The UK average temperature for this July is currently on course to be just 57.4F (14.1C) – lower than the 1981-2010 long-term average of 59.3F (15.2C).
Britain has already surpassed 100 per cent of the average monthly rainfall and only experienced two thirds (66 per cent) of the expected sunshine for an average July, a total of 113.4 hours, Met Office figures show.
It said: ‘We’ve not seen a temperature anywhere above 30C so far or even with a three in it, that is quite unusual for July. In terms of shifting the overall weather stats for the month, it’s not going to do much to the average.’
The top temperature yesterday was 85.5F (29.7C) at Heathrow, which was the hottest day of July until today.
People are looking to hit Britain’s beaches and beauty spots as rising coronavirus cases in popular European destinations has put many off holidaying aborad.