Urgent warning issued to convertible drivers as electrical thunderstorms to hit UK

BBC Weather warns of ‘big showers and thunderstorms’

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Motoring experts have issued convertible drivers with an urgent warning as they forecast electrical thunderstorms to hit the UK by the end of this week. Brits have been basking in glorious sunshine for the majority of this month, but this is now expected to change.

The country has already seen some powerful thunderstorms this week.

London was hit with a heavy thunderstorm yesterday as the sky turned to an apocalyptic blue shade.

Forecasters are now predicting more wild weather to hit the UK as May comes to an end.

The combination of an active jet stream in the Atlantic and low pressure to the north will create the perfect condition for an electrical thunderstorm, according to forecasters.

And, while the conditions might be nothing to worry about for regular drivers, the owners of convertibles have been warned.

Graham Conway, managing director of Select Car Leasing, said: “We don’t get too many electrical storms in the UK, so they are something of a novelty.

“But they do bring with them the potential for life-threatening situations, especially if you are driving a convertible.

“Many people take for granted that they will be safe in a car if lightning strikes due to tyres being made of non-conductive rubber.

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“But what actually happens is the metal structure of the car becomes what is known as a ‘Faraday cage’, where the electricity goes around the outside of the vehicle and anything inside is unharmed.

“Obviously, if you have a soft top rather than a regular metal roof that cage structure isn’t present and you could be in serious trouble.”

Faraday cages are named after English scientist Michael Faraday, who first observed the effect in 1836.

Lightning occurs when tiny ice particles in a storm cloud collide millions of times per second to create an electrical charge.

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Each bolt contains up to a billion volts of electricity and can heat the air to 5,000F, which is five times hotter than the surface of the Sun.

There are around 300,000 in the UK each year, with an average of two people killed and 30 people injured.

But the odds of being hit and killed by lightning are still one in 33 million.

If motorists get struck by lightning while driving a regular car there are still a few things to be aware of, according to Mr Conway.

He said: “It’s best to avoid touching metal objects such as door handles, the gear stick and any dials on the stereo.

“If your vehicle does get struck then wait for a decent period of time – and until the storm has passed – before getting out or attempting to continue your journey.”

Contrary to popular belief, unlike the Faraday Cage effect, rubber tyres do not protect from lightning.

Experts at the USA’s National Lightning Safety Institute said: “Rubber tyres provide no safety from lightning.

“After all, lightning has travelled for miles through the sky: four or five inches of rubber is no insulation whatsoever.”

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