Windows were blown out, cars moved and at least one person injured as a suspected mini-tornado ripped through West Sussex towns last night.
Ambulances were trapped in their station when power to the electric doors failed as flying debris trashed vehicles and homes.
Becki Martin said she had never seen anything like it as cars and homes were damaged in her street.
The 32-year-old administrator from Littlehampton, West Sussex said cars and even vans were moved by the wind.
‘We were all watching the storm out of the lounge window when suddenly the wind picked up incredibly fast.
A suspected mini-tornado ripped through towns in West Sussex last night
A brick wall is damaged by severe winds, as thunderstorms battered the region
Over 20 cars were reportedly damaged as heavy rain and a spectacular display of lightening hit the Sussex coast
Several houses have had windows smashed by the storms in the area
A Met Office spokesperson said the environment was not unfavourable to a tornado, with similar conditions reported at Jersey Airport in the Channel Islands
‘The van on the road opposite us moved and a tree had come down. My sister heard another tree going down as well.
‘We’ve had 20 car windows smashed. It’s either a freak storm or mini tornado.
‘The wind got insanely high for a minute or two. I’ve never seen anything like it.’
A neighbour in Cherry Croft was cut on the leg by flying glass, Becki said.
Heavy rain and a spectacular display of lightening were reported across the Sussex coast.
Ambulances in Worthing were trapped when a power cut stopped the electric doors from opening.
An ambulance service spokesman said: ‘Power is now back on, but yes, Worthing Ambulance Station was affected by the local outage.
‘We evacuated the building for a period due to it being affected by an issue at a nearby premises.’
It comes as parts of England were hit by the tail end of Hurricane Lee, bringing two inches of rainfall across the South West in the space of a few hours.
The severe weather forced Exeter Airport to close after its terminal became flooded, as motorists were trapped in their cars nearby in Dawlish.
A spokesman for the Met Office said: ‘In the period around midnight local time, some active thunderstorms moved through the region.
‘The environment was not completely unfavourable for a tornado, and in similar conditions a funnel cloud was reported by Jersey Airport in the Channel Islands in the late afternoon.
‘There will have been a sudden wind veer from a light southeasterly to a strong southwesterly at least gusting around 35 mph in the Worthing area between 23:50 and 00:00, in association with heavy precipitation.
‘With this much wind shear (in the area of wind change), it is possible that some of this vorticity (spin) could have been stretched by the strong convective updraughts and formed a short lived / weak tornado….however, we have no observational evidence to support this, but it is possible.’
Tarpaulin and gazebos have been used to help cover broken car windows
The mini-tornado saw extensive damage to Cherry Croft with a number of incidents reported
A spokeswoman for West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said: ‘Last night, September 17, at 11.53pm, we responded to multiple incidents at Cherry Croft, Littlehampton.
‘Joint fire control sent one fire engine from Littlehampton to the scene.
‘Upon arrival, firefighters found that a number of properties and vehicles in the area had been damaged as a result of the storm.
‘This included a tree that had fallen onto a car and a skylight had been removed by the wind, with rain water leaking into the affected property.
‘Crews helped to make the scene safe and administered first aid to one resident with minor injuries.
‘West Sussex County Council’s highways team were also informed of the obstruction on the highway.
‘Firefighters booked away from the scene at around 12.45am.’
Another resident of Cherry Croft described the tornado as very scary.
‘There is extensive damage to several cars, causing broken windows, many trees down and cars and vans moved by the wind, all in a matter of seconds.
‘The street has helped each other by using tarpaulin and gazebos to cover blown car windows,’ the resident said.