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Stephen Shirley records 110mph winds at Victoriana Nursery Gardens, Challock, Ashford, days before lightning strikes his home

20 February 2014
by Suz Elvey

Last Wednesday evening wind speeds of a staggering 110mph, almost twice as fast as in surrounding areas, were recorded in the village by a business owner using professional meteorological equipment.

Three days later the same man’s house was struck by lightning while other parts of Ashford borough experienced no storm at all.

Stephen Shirley outside his Challock home, which was struck by lightening

Stephen Shirley outside his Challock home, which was struck by lightning

Stephen Shirley monitors air temperature for the benefit of his plants at Victoriana Nursery Gardens but his La Crosse Technology digital weather station also measures rainfall, humidity and wind speed.

The 44-year-old father couldn’t believe his eyes when he spotted the shockingly high wind speed and immediately took a photo of the weather station’s screen as evidence.

He said: “I was just a little surprised. When we had the storm in October we only had 87mph. We got quite a big response when we tweeted the picture to all our followers on Twitter.

"The weather station is quite expensive and has always been accurate – I’ve no reason not to believe the windspeed was 110mph.”

Mr Shirley said no damage was caused to his home or business by the high winds but he wasn’t so lucky when his home, in the grounds of the Buck Street nursery, was hit by lightning on Saturday morning.

Wind speeds of 110mph were recorded in Challock

Wind speeds of 110mph were recorded in Challock

His wife Serena, 34, who co-owns the nursery with him, described what happened.

She said: “I saw the lightning out of the corner of my eye and then I heard an almighty crack. I actually thought the house was falling down.

“The weather in Challock is so bizarre, you just get used to sporadic weather. We had a mini tornado here a few years back that whipped through the nursery and picked all the pot plants up.”

It was only when her husband arrived home they realised they had lost part of the chimney.

Mrs Shirley’s father-in-law Jeremy was in his house next door when the lightning struck at 10.35am.

Lightning hit a house in Challock. Stock picture.

Lightning hit a house in Challock. Stock picture.

He added: “I’ve never heard such a loud crack of thunder. The whole house shook. It sounded like a bomb going off. It was absolutely horrendous.”

Met Office spokesman Laura Young said it would be “incredibly unusual” for such high speed winds to batter Challock but because they did not have an observation station in the Ashford area they could not be certain it had not happened.

She said: “Without looking at the quality of the equipment it would be hard to judge how accurate Mr Shirley’s measurements are.

“It is possible as Challock is quite high and exposed but it would be incredibly unusual.

“The highest wind speed we recorded in Kent that day was 63mph on the coast at Dover and the highest in the country was 111mph on Great Dun Fell, the second highest hill in the Pennines.”

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