5:00am Wednesday 8th January 2014
By Joanna Davis
RESIDENTS have told of their ordeal after fleeing their homes as flooding threatened Portland.
People living on the island were given the option of evacuating or moving to upstairs rooms as 15ft waves threatened to flood Chiswell.
Most stayed in their homes and waited the storm out.
Anne Souster’s home in Brandy Row was flooded.
She said: “The water is two inches deep. We didn’t leave the cottage.
“It’s been here since the 1600s so thought it would last the course.
“I think there was more of a problem with the idiots going up to the sea wall and putting themselves in danger.”
Rachel Hodson fled her home in Chiswell along with her two children, Matthew, nine, and Keanen, seven, and the family’s two dogs.
The stayed with a friend in Southwell.
Miss Hodson, 30, said: “The children were in bed fast asleep when the sirens sounded.
“I got them out of bed and we all went up to stay with my friend.
“My youngest was a bit frightened.”
Miss Hodson moved all the electrical items upstairs, away from potential flooding.
Authorities closed the causeway from 10.20pm to 1.30am on Monday night and sirens sounded at Chiswell at 10.25pm, warning of waves coming over the sea wall.
Seven Weymouth residents, who were left stranded on Portland, went to the Heights Hotel until the road was re-opened.
Around 30 Portland residents waiting to return to the island remained queued in their cars at Ferrybridge during the closure.
Jackie Breakspear, joint licensee of the Cove House Inn which is yards away from Chesil Beach, said a small group of people remaining in the pub when the sirens sounded moved upstairs.
She said: “A huge wave came over and hit the pub.
“There was water cascading down the windows.
“We had tables floating outside and pebbles coming up to the door.”
Cindy-Lee Noble, 57, inset, and son Ben Weeratunge, 32, of Clements Lane, Chiswell, said hearing the sirens on Monday night was ‘a scary’ experience.
Cindy said: “We had to move all expensive and sentimental items upstairs and I thought to myself ‘they’re only objects – safety is more important’.
“We stayed upstairs until sunrise but then it was time to come downstairs, put the wellies back on and assessed the damage.
“Luckily nothing was damaged and no water came in due to the sandbags we had, which we are thankful for.
“Everyone on the street was looking out their windows in the morning at one another and putting their thumbs up to signal that everything was okay.
Authorities kept a watch as high tide approached yesterday.
Workers from the Environment Agency, Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, South Western Ambulance Service, Dorset County Council and Weymouth and Portland Borough Council kept a watch as tides peaked at 10.50am.
South Dorset MP Richard Drax visited Chiswell yesterday and praised the emergency response.
He said: “Everyone I’ve spoken to has said they are very thankful to the Environment Agency, the police and fire brigade who have all done a very good job of warning people.”
Borough councillor Sandra West, who represents Underhill on Portland, said the islanders are a ‘stoic’ people who are pulling together in the crisis.
She said: “It was very wild last night but the sea defences obviously did their job.
“I’ve lived here for more than 40 years and it’s one of the worst storms I’ve seen.”
The warnings were reduced from Severe Flood Warning to Flood Warning for both Preston Beach and Chiswell last night.
The warning was in place for two hours after high tide at 11pm.
A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “The previously issued severe flood warning has been downgraded.”
Rest centres at Wey Valley School and the Portland Heights Hotel were put on standby, but authorities said they would not be activated unless necessary.
The Met Office has issued further yellow weather warnings for rain for the early hours of this morning and then from noon today till 9am tomorrow.
County battered by gale force winds and rain
DORSET was underwater as the county continued to be battered by wind and rain.
Roads were closed and public transport disrupted as rivers overflowed and landslips were reported.
Conditions are expected to calm down today, although the Met Office is forecasting more rain overnight.
A yellow weather warning for rain is in place until 6am.
The chief forecaster for the Met Office said: “Heavy showers will become less frequent for a time through Tuesday afternoon, but more prolonged rain is likely to affect some south-eastern counties of England overnight into the early hours of Wednesday.
“The public should be aware of the risk of further localised flooding, especially in areas which have been affected in recent days.”
Severe flood warnings issued by the Environment Agency were lifted yesterday for Preston Beach Road in Weymouth and Portland Beach Road.
Preston Beach Road was closed at high tide yesterday morning due to the risk of tidal flooding and debris on the road.
A diversion was put in place via Littlemoor and police urged drivers not to ignore road closure signs.
A spokesman said: “This is a multi-agency operation and follows monitoring of sea levels, tides and waves over the last 24-hour period.
“The weather forecast indicated further severe weather together with predicted high tides.”
A landslip in West Dorset blocked the B3162 at North Allington in Bridport between the Allington Mead junction and the Pymore Lane junction.
There was also a landslip in Sherborne, blocking the New Road at the Gas House Hill junction.
A number of roads were closed due to floods, including the A352 in North Street at Charminster, the B3075 South Causeway at Wareham.
White Way in Litton Cheney was blocked because of a fallen tree and dozens of other roads across the county were hit by floodwater.
RNLI volunteers from across the south west were drafted in to cope with conditions.
Flood rescue team manager Tom Mansell said: “We were called to make sure people were safe and accounted for in the treacherous conditions.
“This involved wading through the rising water, which was running at speed, so our training was vital. Fortunately everyone was accounted for.”
A spokesman for Dorset Fire and Rescue said the service was called out to a number of weather-related incidents yesterday, including reports of arcing cables on Bere Road just south of Winterbourne Kingston.
A crew from Blandford attended just after 12.30pm and stood by as a precautionary measure but the incident was handed over to engineers from Scottish and Southern Energy.
The brewery’s building in South Street is the only thatched roof brewery in the UK.
This lead to a full evacuation of staff from the premises.
Darren Batten, the head brewer at Palmers Brewery, said: “We were hit just after 8am.
“There was a massive hail storm and a massive bang and a flash of light, and then the alarms started sounding, so we had to evacuate into the rain.
“There has been no damage to the building, and thankfully nobody is injured.
“We think the lightning hit the scaffolding on the end of the Malt House building, which is our biggest storage area which is where all the sensors are, which started the alarms.
“We are brewing today as well, but it didn’t really affect the brewing process because we just turned it off then started it up again after.”
The brewery did call the fire brigade after the incident, but two of the staff are also retained firefighters and after they conducted their initial checks, the brewery cancelled the fire brigade once everyone’s safety was ensured.
The building was previously hit by lighting in May 2013. Mr Batten added: “It’s the second time in a year it has happened, so lightning really does strike twice.”
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