Downpour in 1899 was ‘unparalleled’

Sir Francis Chichester on Gipsy Moth IV.

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Nothing’s new. On this day in 1899 a rainstorm ‘of unparalleled magnitude’ lasted an hour, dropping an estimated 347 million gallons of water on the Borough of Portsmouth.

Streets were flooded everywhere; Old Portsmouth and Southsea Common were completely under water, Commercial Road was ‘like a river’ and boys swam in Stanhope Road.

‘The air was so charged with electricity that several fire alarms were set going, the lightning was most terrifying and several houses were struck and damaged,’ according to council records.

It was also reported that at the Town Hall the water broke through the roof and fell ‘in tons’ all over the building causing great damage.

Remarkably, no-one was reported to have been injured as a result of the deluge and its aftermath.

The extraordinary event prompted the Evening News to publish a special edition that evening – from John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days