SOUTHEND Hospital’s A&E department was partly evacuated, trains were blocked out of the town, and roads were flooded in a huge downpour yesterday.
The Echo understands the department was evacuated after a torrential downpour hit the south of the county after 2pm, hitting Canvey and Southend with localised flooding.
Greater Anglia suspended its trains to and from Southend after a lightning bolt struck a signal in Billericay at around 4pm.
Aerial picture taken from Essex Police's helicopter
Flooding at Rochford Road, Southend...near the Southend Airport Retail Park. Picture by SIMON MURDOCH
Residents were left counting the cost of the downpour in Canvey, with several main roads closed off, including one of the main routes of the island, Link Road.
Flooding on Canvey
A lightning strike knocked out Canvey's pumps for 12 minutes, according to the Environment Agency. Although residents said it was longer.
MP Rebecca Harris has called for a thorough investigation into what went wrong.
Resident Tracy Fisher, 53, of San Remo Road, said it was the worst flooding she had ever seen.
She said: "My living room is still under three inches of water.
"I'm so upset. We've got our furniture on tables to try and save it."
Mass flooding was also reported in the streets around Southend Airport, with the airport having to divert the 3.30pm flight from Amsterdam to Stansted.
Battlesbridge and Wickford also hit by flash floods
Prittlewell Brook was also reportedly close to bursting its banks, while fire engines raced to the Pizza Hut restaurant, off Southchurch Road in the town centre, because of concerns over the building.
Several other roads in Canvey were swamped under water in a chilling echo of the floods of August 2012.
Canvey resident Elyse Featherstone said: "It was only yesterday I wandered along the sea wall and met an artist painting the story of the first great canvey flood.
"History repeated itself this afternoon when the rains came full and fast.
"First it was in your shoes then it was up to your knees, suddenly there was no more roads or pavements only water and abandoned vehicles.
"Children were unstrapped from their seats and placed into their parents arms. Dogs and cats were quickly found and returned to their homes, brooms and buckets made frequent appearances as the water began to creep into front doors.
"Link Road became a no go zone, members of the public barricaded themselves at both ends of the famous link and refused cars entry, most turned around or parked up and walked, one car almost hit the wall of fearless men as he arrogantly stormed his car through. He lost a wing mirror and back wiper as a result. I spoke to people I hadn't spoken to in years, there was an excitement and spirit in the air as the canvey community fought against mother nature.
"Eventually the rains stopped and a police helicopter assured us they had found the key to the pump room. hooray once again our little sinking island conquered the ugly storm and lives to tell the tale."
The Environment Agency has put out a floord warning for parts of Southend and Rochford.
A spokesman said: "We are seeing high river levels on the River Roach, Prittle Brook and Eastwood Brook due to thundestorms.
"River levels are likely to continue to rise. Over the next 12 hours the forecast is for thunderstorms.
"The Environment Agency is monitoring the situation closely, working alongside partners including the Met Office and local authorities."
Prittle Brook close to bursting its banks - pic from Your Southend
Emergency services stretched as strikes happen during floods
Canvey flooding - picture by Simon Phillips
Essex Fire Service admits its resources are stretched as crews strike while the storm clean-up takes place.
The Fire Brigade's Union (FBU) called a strike between 5pm and 7pm yesterday.
A spokesman for the service said: "Canvey is one area particularly affected but calls have also included Southend, Harlow, Aveley, Ongar, and Corringham and resources are stretched.
"Incidents range from people stranded in vehicles that are stuck in flood water, cables arcing, hedgerow fires, to a house fire following a lightning strike. ECFRS responds to flood incidents where there is risk to life.
"FBU members began their strike at 5pm and until 7pm calls are being covered by working crews."