A WOMAN has told how she had to flee for her life after Saturday’s spectacular thunderstorm started a fire in her bedroom as she slept.
Thunder and lightning battered the county, sparking fires and cutting power to dozens of homes.
Elaine Bossom was in bed when a lightning bolt struck cables connected to a Freeview box in her bedroom. The unit exploded, setting fire to the curtains of the top-floor bedroom in Lime Trees, Chilton, near Didcot.
The first floor of the house filled with smoke, but Mrs Bossom and husband Quentin managed to escape with their two sons Harvey, 17, and Robin, 15, and pet dog, Remy.
Weather forecasters said the storm was expected but they were surprised by the number of lightning strikes.
Mrs Bossom, 48, said: “I was sound asleep in bed, and I woke up and there was this almighty sound. It was horrendous.
“I jumped out of bed and the curtains were already alight. There was smoke everywhere.”
She added: “We were all in our pyjamas and I just thought ‘we have to get out’.
“The adrenaline kicked in. It is scary thinking now that the house took a direct hit while we were sleeping.”
As flames spread across to the curtains, Mrs Bossom scrambled out of the room and slammed the door to contain the fire.
Firefighters were called to the scene at 12.16am.
The family could only look on as firefighters tackled the blaze.
Mr Bossom, a 51-year-old product manager at Dixons, said: “Just after midnight, I woke up with a massive bang and then within seconds, it had flashed over the house.
“Even though it was very hot, it had not spread and the fire service put it out.
“But the whole of the master bedroom has been damaged by smoke.”
Full-time mum Mrs Bossom said: “If it had hit the downstairs, it could have been much worse. The main thing is that everybody is ok.
“I just have to think – are we unlucky because we got hit? or are we lucky because we are ok?
“You never can be ready for something like that.”
The Met Office said above-average temperatures contributed to the stormy weather.
Temperatures of 24C – 4 or 5C above the average – were recorded at Benson on Friday night.
Thundery showers were expected on Friday, but forecasters said the large number of strikes was unusual.
Met Office forecaster Tom Morgan said: “We saw storms developing across southern parts of the Midlands and Oxfordshire in the evening.
“There was quite a lot of lightning during the early hours and lots of heavy rain.”
About 140 homes in Cowley were hit by power cuts on Friday night after lighting hit an overhead line.
Southern Electric Power spokeswoman Sam O’Connor said an overhead line had been damaged in the storm, and a further fault was discovered in an underground line.
Trains between Reading and Oxford were delayed by up to 20 minutes on Saturday morning because of a lightning strike on signalling equipment near Didcot.
The Bossoms’ neighbours Colin and Nancy Weller suffered a similar fate when they lived in Reading 12 years ago.
Mr Weller said: “There was a terrific bang on Friday night. I have never head anything quite like it. It was pouring with rain.”
Chris Launchbury, 16, who also lives in Lime Trees, rushed outside when he heard the lightning.
He said: “I was woken up by a bang like an artillery shell.”
Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service were also called to Canning Crescent in South Oxford, at 1.59am on Saturday, after a lightning bolt damaged roof tiles.
Near Goring there was a fire involving an electric pylon and workshop that broke out in Gatehampton Farm at 12.31am on Saturday.
Readers took these dramatic pictures of forked lightning during the height of the storms
Karl Bowdrey, in Wallingford
Jason Southgate, in Wootton, near Abingdon
For more pictures see our gallery