Home-owners, businesses and the insurance industry in the UK were counting the cost of a major clean-up operation after freak storms hit the country yesterday.

Commutes usually taking minutes lasted for hours

Landslips caused chaos on the railways, cars were submerged by rising water and homes located far away from rivers and streams flooded because of the volume of rain that fell on Thursday.

The Environment Agency said the period of April to June has been the wettest since records began.

Rail services between England and Scotland were badly disrupted well into the day as rain tore away track beds at Scremerston, Northumberland, and landslides in the Lake District and Scottish Highlands caused more problems.

It led to thousands being stranded as no trains could pass between Newcastle and Edinburgh until the afternoon. Hundreds of engineers will work over the weekend to repair the damaged tracks, which include the Newcastle to Carlisle line near Haltwhistle.

Northern Powergrid said around 5,200 customers in the northeast were without electricity after lightning strikes damaged supply lines.

Councils across the country worked hard to reopen flooded roads and remove the silt and debris left by the floods.

Abandoned cars – many lined with mud – were being recovered from where they were dumped in the worst of the storm.

Terry Adair, 74, from Heworth, Gateshead, picked up documents from his sister-in-law’s wrecked Nissan Micra. “It’s a write-off,” he said.“The road filled up that quick, it seemed like a matter of seconds, then the traffic stopped and it was bumper-to-bumper.

“The Metro stopped running and then everything ceased. It was like time stood still, it was like the end of the world.”

Across Tyneside, workers swapped stories about their nightmare journeys home as a combination of major roads closing, cancelled trains and a suspended Metro underground service meant commutes that usually took minutes required hours of persistence.

Organisers of the Godiva Festival in Coventry, which was expected to attract 100,000 revellers, had to cancel the event because of the horrendous weather.

In Lanchester, County Durham, homes and shops were flooded and locals kept a close eye on the Wear amid fears it might breach its banks.

The freak storms that affected the Midlands, Cumbria and the northeast were caused by a Spanish Plume phenomenon. Warm, moist air sweeping up from the south was lifted by a cold weather front from the west, bringing prolonged and exceptionally intense downpours.

The conditions were right to release a great deal of energy in a series of spectacular storms.

Labour demanded that the government help councils meet the cost of flash flooding.

When swathes of the country were hit by flooding five years ago and in the 2009 Cumbrian floods, central funds helped affected local authorities that had suffered from the devastation.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “The department stands ready to support all councils, but none has as yet put in a request.”