Homes and businesses were mopping up yesterday after being hit by a freak storm which caused up to six inches of hail, torrential rain, lightning - and even a tornado.

The storm hit the area between York and Hull, flooding at least 60 properties, forcing businesses to close and disrupting rail services after York railway station was hit by lightning four times within a few minutes.

The lightning strikes caused a surge of power which knocked out systems controlling signalling and track circuits just before 9am.

Services were delayed as engineers worked to repair the damage.

A Railtrack spokesman said: "It was an amazing storm - I've never witnessed anything like it. There was ice all over the ground.

"The lightning hit the north and south of the station, and unfortunately it stopped everything."

York's firefighters responded to a total of 14 storm-related calls in little more than an hour.

Two people escaped unhurt when the roof of their home in Holly Bank Road was struck by lightning, blowing tiles off the roof and causing a fire in the attic.

The torrential rain flooded several homes across the city.

The tornado was reported off the Humber Estuary. The coastguard said it did not cause any casualties, although it sucked water up to form a spectacular water spout.

Firefighters received more than 80 calls from the village of Hedon, to the east of Hull, which was particularly badly affected by the hour-long storm.

Sub fire officer Ian Daddy said: "It's weird. There's hail in some parts of the village and flooding in other parts.

"The downpour lasted just over an hour and it was unbelievable. I've never seen anything like this before."

Eight fire engines were called to the village and started pumping the water from the flooded streets. No residents were evacuated.

John Plater, who manages Hedon Post Office, said: "I have never seen anything like it.

"There is about eight inches of hail banked up by the side of the shops - the hailstones were huge.

"The water was above the road and a lot of homes and businesses have been flooded.

"We've had customers in their 80s saying they've never witnessed summer weather like this in their lives."

The Hedon HSBC bank branch closed after water poured in, and Nutmeg cafe in the village was forced to shut after it was flooded.

Cafe owner Kay Bottomley said: "It started with a leak through the ceiling and then it started to pour through the door.

"Our back yard is four to five inches deep with hail. We're trying to mop it all up - I can't believe it."

A spokesman for the PA WeatherCentre confirmed six inches of hail had fallen in the York and Hull area yesterday, which was "extremely rare".

Parts of the North-East were hit by thunder storms later yesterday, but the weather was expected to settle down over night.