By Gareth E Rees

At approximately 2am on 7th August, residents on the South East Sussex coast reported a freak storm on the English Channel. Sudden gusts of wind, rain and lightning caused intense damage for less than thirty minutes before the storm abated.

Ocean Court resident Jennifer Butler told the HIP: “The racket was so awful it woke me and my husband up. I looked out of the window to see waves and flashes of light. Then the wind died down, just like that, and the clouds drifted away. You could see a massive full moon in a clear night sky, sat really low on the horizon. It was pretty weird.”

A volunteer at the Met Office Weather compound in White Rock Gardens has suggested
that this could have been a ‘microburst’, a severe and violent storm that can affect an area
as small as two square miles before quickly dissipating. These are more common in the south of the USA but extremely hot summer conditions could make them a feature of British weather.

Witnesses report ‘unusually large’ appearance of the moon
PICTURE: Zeroh for Coastal Currents

The storm occurred on the night of a full moon, known as the ‘Sturgeon Moon’, which may explain reports by Jennifer Butler, and several other witnesses, that the moon looked unusually large.

Amateur astronomer. Alec Worcely, highlighted a phenomenon known as the ‘Moon Illusion’ in which the moon, when positioned close to the horizon, appears much larger than it is. There is currently no scientific consensus on why this happens. However, Worcely added: “While that could be the reason, some of the photos I’ve been shown by people are baffling – to be quite honest, it’s not something I’ve seen before.”

Neither has there been a rational explanation for the sudden profusion of moths in Hastings in the immediate aftermath of the storm. A group of students returning home along the promenade after a party claimed to see “thousands” beneath the pier and along bottle alley. There have been numerous reports of mass hatchings in the days since the weather event.

Lisa Dembek, an entomologist called in by Hastings council believes these are gypsy moths. “Numbers can fluctuate widely from year to year,” she said “But this looks like an extraordinary outbreak. In these periods, the caterpillars cross roads, crawl up walls, and sometimes will come inside your homes. Their pupae get everywhere.”

This could simply be a sign of times to come. Hotter temperatures and changing weather patterns could bring more phenomena like this to our shores.

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