A VIOLENT storm sent waves crashing over beaches, uprooted trees and toppled over vehicles as the coast was battered by more severe weather.
Severe storm-force winds of more than 70mph whipped along the Dorset coast in the latest bout of wild weather.
Flood warnings were issued during yesterday’s high tide for Chiswell on Portland, Preston Beach Road in Weymouth and the harbours at West Bay and Lyme Regis – but defences held back the sea.
In Lyme, locals described it as the ‘worst storm for 50 years.’ The wind got so fierce in the county that Dorset Police urged people not to travel during a two-hour period in the afternoon ‘unless absolutely necessary.’ It came as authorities received numerous reports of trees being blown over.
Uprooted trees and flooding also blocked railway lines between Weymouth and Waterloo and in the Sherborne area on the Exeter-Waterloo line.
A chimney was blown off a property at Burton Bradstock.
High-sided vehicles were kept away from the A35 between Bridport and Dorchester as the winds whipped up but it was too late to topple a lorry at Askerswell and a van which blew over at Winterbourne Abbas.
Police warned onlookers as huge waves at West Bay lifted shingle off the beach and sent it flying over towards cars parked nearby, smashing some windows.
Weymouth weatherman Bob Poots said the town had already exceeded the monthly rainfall average for February.
He added: “With the weather we have had this month so far, and are likely to have in the next few days, we haven’t yet had the wettest winter in Weymouth since records began but I think we might well have this time.”
Diggers continued to work rebuilding Chesil Beach after it was battered by earlier storms. They had to move when the waves got too high.
The Environment Agency will be on scene at Chesil Beach all week moving tonnes of shingle.
Paul Gainey, from the EA, said earlier storms had caused a significant loss from the beach and that they had been working with the Army to ‘recharge’ it.
It was hoped the repairs would stand up to the latest storm damage.
Mr Gainey said: “They have been taking the shingle on the foreshore and pushing it further up the beach to reshape and recharge the beach, so it’s more evenly distributed.”
He added: “The storms did damage to the gabion baskets. It’s there to stop the movement of the shingle and absorb the wind and wave action. They have been badly damaged in the last storms.”
n THE Met Office is warning people to beware of rain and strong winds with yellow weather warnings in place for the next three days.
High winds are forecast today and warnings of rain are in place for tomorrow and Saturday.
A spokesperson for the Met Office said: “The public should be prepared for the risk of disruption to transport and possibly also power supplies. In addition, large waves are likely to affect some coasts.”
Businesses brave the severe conditions
IT WAS business as usual for many Chiswell residents yesterday, despite high winds and flood warnings.
The Met Office issued an amber warning of wind at the beginning of the day, with gusts up to 69mph expected.
As winds began to peak at lunchtime, the Environment Agency issued a flood warning for Chiswell, Portland, and Preston Beach, Weymouth.
Amanda Broughton-South, one of the landladies at The Cove House Inn, said they were still open for business but were taking preventative measures.
She said: “We have just got all the windows boarded up still and we are going to keep them boarded up until the weather passes really, just for protection.
“We can’t afford any more damage.”
She added: “We’re in a catch-22 really, waiting and praying the weather’s going to ease sometime soon.
“It’s affecting business. There’s no two ways about it. I think people think we're closed but we’re not.”
The Little Ship, in Chiswell, was another pub that stayed open despite receiving heavy damage.
Landlady Lynda Davis saw her beer garden wall destroyed by last week’s strong winds and high tides.
The military have since been in to help clear away some of the debris.
Ms Davis said: “The army are doing a really good job.
“They have got a digger out there and they are getting all of the stones and pebbles off the garden. This is all down to Richard Drax and not our local councillors.”
One business did close early as a result of the high winds.
Claire Wigley, 40, who works for Mr Mushy’s Diner, closed early after initially setting up in Chiswell.
She said: “We’ve had a few days where we’ve not been able to open.
“It’s unsafe with the hatch and everything. No one wants to come and stand there.”
Despite being asked to move away from the shore on Saturday, the diner has still been able to take advantage of the storm situation.
Ms Wigley added: “We have had a lot of business from the soldiers. So, it’s brought us some good.”