PEOPLE in Cumbria and Lancashire are being told to brace themselves for thunderstorms, torrential rain and hail this evening after the Met Office issued an amber weather alert for northern England.

Forecasters said the public should be prepared for disruption with an amber 'be prepared' warning in place from 4.45pm until 11pm tonight.

Amber is the Met Office's second highest alert.

Current predictions suggest storms will give 'localised downpours' and 'large hail' across much of northern England.

The Met Office said some places would escape thunderstorms, but that those areas that are hit could see between 40 and 60mm of rain in less than three hours.

Cumbria Police have urged drivers to take care on the county's roads as they head home as summer storms hit the region after a prolonged dry spell.

Thunder, lightning and heavy showers first arrived in South Lakeland early this morning causing difficult conditions and at least one accident.

Northern Rail train services have also been affected between Settle and Carlisle after a lightning strike damaged signalling equipment at Kirkby Stephen.

A spokesman for Cumbria Police said: "Police are urging motorists to take extreme care and reduce their speed.

"Driving conditions were hazardous this morning after some areas of the county experienced heavy rainfall.

"This is expected in some areas again during drive time traffic and police are asking people to take care.

"Motorists should reduce their speed and leave a sufficient braking distance from the vehicle in front.

"Road surfaces can become slippery or ‘greasy’ and officers are particularly concerned about the dangers this presents for bikers and motorway users.

"Motorists are asked to slow down, take extra care and be particularly aware of motorcycles around them.

"Bikers are urged to be particularly careful when rounding bends and avoid travelling at high speeds."

Police advised road users to visit for the latest travel news.