THERE were dramatic scenes across Dorset last night when lightning illuminated the skies.

The storm hit the county just before 11pm. Residents in the New Forest reported five ground strikes in rapid succession only 50m from houses.

Video by Steve Downes

A local weather enthusiast said Bournemouth experienced the hottest night for 11 years.

Jim Smith, who has been recording weather information at Springbourne since 1996, said the temperature was 20-21C all night before finally dipping below 20C at around 6am.

See all the pictures of the spectacular lightning show in our reader gallery

Bournemouth Echo: Jim Smith's weather graph Weather enthusiast Jim Smith’s graph for temperatures at Springbourne on the night of July 17-18

“The last time we had a night that warm was the night after the temperature record in the south east on August 10-11 2003,” he said.

But he said the rainfall during the spectacular lightning storms was relatively light.

“The storm only produced 1mm of rain here. It often looks worse on radar as a lot of the rain evaporates before reaching the ground,” he added.

Forensic meteorologist Richard Wild, of Bournemouth-based WeatherNet, confirmed the night's minimum temperatures had been the highest night-time minimums since 2003.

Official readings from the weather station at Hurn show a low for the night of 19.1C. That is higher than any minimum night-time temperature since August 5 and 11 2003, where the figure  was 20C on each occasion.

No figures are yet available for the King's Park weather station, but its previous records for the highest minimum night-time temperatures were 20.9C on August 11 2003, 20.7C on August 5 2003 and 19C on July 21 1989.

Dr Wild stressed that temperatures in cities were likely to have been much higher.

"Bournemouth will never get the warmest night ever in the UK because of its coastal location," he said.

"I would imagine there's probably somewhere that's been 23-24C.

"We had a superb flash of thunderstorms just before midnight. I think there's a risk of it again today but I think the greatest risk of a thunderstorm is probably going to be Saturday morning."

He said Saturday's temperatures were likely to reach around 23C with the risk of thundery showers in the morning, while the afternoon was likely to be muggy.

Next week's weather is also set to be hot, with temperatures expected to reach 27C on Tuesday.

A Met Office animation of last night's lightning strikes across the UK

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According to the BBC, lightning struck more than 3,000 times in two hours around the country between Thursday night and Friday morning.

Readers have been sending their pictures and video footage of last night's dramatic scenes.

During this morning, the Met Office upgraded its earlier yellow 'be aware' weather warning for overnight and into Saturday to amber. 

The alert is valid from 12.15am until 11.45pm and covers Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset.

The warning says: "Several areas of heavy, thundery showers will develop over England and Wales from Friday night before moving northwards during Saturday.

"Not everywhere within the warning area will see thunderstorms, and indeed some spells of warm sunshine are expected at times, but where thunderstorms do form, some torrential downpours are likely with frequent lightning, large hail and locally strong gusts.

"Significant flooding is possible where these do occur from surface water as well as from small, fast-responding watercourses. The public should be prepared for the risk of disruption from any of these elements."

Bournemouth Echo: Lightning over Bournemouth. Picture by Rob Fleming. Photo by Rob Fleming

Penny Saunders captured the footage below last night from her son's bedroom window at their house in West Howe.

Bournemouth Echo: Lightning put on a spectacular show across Dorset on July 17 and 18, 2014.  Photo by Thomas Allcorn