UK weather: Tornado damages homes and cars in Surrey

Residents assess the damage to their properties in Chertsey. Pic: @QPRSteve1982

Fire crews have been called out to reports of a tornado ripping through homes and cars - and tearing down fences and trees.

The Met Office received reports of a tornado hitting the area around Chertsey, Surrey, as the south of England has been battered by heavy rain and strong winds

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service said the twister hit Ottershaw, just outside of the town, and also "impacted" Bittams Lane, on the edge of the town, to the northeast.

More than 20 homes suffered damaged roofs and 10 cars were struck by falling tiles on one estate, where fences and trees were also brought down.

Twenty-six firefighters and four fire engines were sent to the scene to help residents, with "serious damage" said to have been caused, and local councils are working with police to make the affected buildings safe.

"Residents stated that it was terrifying and came through very quickly," the fire service said.

"In total 26 houses, 13 cars and four garages were damaged."

The fire service added: "It uprooted trees and blocked roads and caused serious damages to properties."

The properties have also been checked by structural engineers.

One local, Paula Webb, told the Surrey Live website that the windy onslaught was "like a plane taking off".

"All I can remember is it was really heavy rain, I looked outside and it was so dark, it sounded almost like it was a plane taking off, you could see the trees were literally bent over," she said.

"It was over in seconds, I could just see tiles off roofs and all the fencing down."

Neighbour Jo Mason added: "It's dented the bonnet of my new car, so not happy. I have got loads of dents on the bonnet. We were walking the dogs, when we came back the neighbours said 'we've had a tornado'."

The Met Office has tweeted radar images showing how the tornado in Chertsey formed.

Heavy rain combined with strong winds to create the unusual weather event, which came amid a severe weather warning across the South.

It comes as the same storm that caused the tornado has been barrelling across Europe, leaving seven dead.

Before the tornado, the conditions had already caused major disruption for people hoping for a Christmas getaway.

Scores of flood warnings have been issued by the Environment Agency, indicating immediate action is required, along with more than 200 flood alerts, meaning flooding is possible.

Up to 30mm (1.18in) of rain has been forecast in parts, with the severe warning in place until noon on Sunday.

Andrew Griffith, the MP for Arundel and South Down, posted pictures of roads overwhelmed with water.

Those heading away for the festive season have been warned about the potential impact on their travel plans, with more delays anticipated on the roads and trouble also possible for people travelling by air and rail.

Flight cancellations are threatened in Northern Ireland, with a warning of freezing fog.

John Halsall, managing director of Network Rail's southern region, said the network was "under enormous pressure" because of the torrential rain, with Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express all affected by flooded lines.

People are being advised to check timetables before they travel.

As for the roads, motorists heading to the port at Dover have been facing huge delays after the eastbound carriageway of the M20 in Kent was closed at the junction with the M25 following a serious traffic accident.

It comes after a section of the M23 between London and Brighton was closed on Friday due to flooding.

Sussex Police have described driving conditions in the region as "miserable" and warned drivers there was "a lot of standing water on the roads".

Devon and Cornwall Police said flooding across the counties made "a number of roads impassable" - and it urged drivers to take extra care.

Highways England has urged motorists to adapt their driving for the wet weather by slowing down, keeping well back from the vehicle in front and easing off the accelerator if steering becomes unresponsive.

The Environment Agency also warned of trying to drive through floodwater as only 30cm of water can move a car.