COMMUNITIES are counting the cost of a terrifying hurricane-force storm which decimated the coastline.

The destructive Valentine’s Day storm which continued into Saturday caused chaos whipping roofs from homes, triggered landslides, plunged thousands of homes into darkness, toppled over lorries and uprooted scores of trees as well as tearing down power cables.

Winds of up to 80mph and waves more than 30ft high pounded coastal areas, putting lives in danger.

Emergency services, council staff and military personnel alerted residents whose properties were under threat, as well as providing transport and medical help.

Residents evacuated from West Bay came back to find tidal flooding and violent winds had damaged properties.

Flood sirens blared out on Friday night and again on Saturday at Chiswell on Portland as winds raged and created gigantic waves, throwing huge rocks on to the seafront. A set of stairs leading to the beach was battered ‘like a sledgehammer,’ said one onlooker.

The Cove House Inn had to be evacuated and police blocked anyone from going on to the seafront.

Portland Beach Road was under four feet of water from flooding at Hamm Beach. The road’s closure overnight trapped people either side of the causeway for several hours. Refuge centres were set up, including impromptu shelters in Weymouth. The beach road opened for a couple of hours early on Saturday but closed again as waves rose at high tide.

A Wessex 4X4 vehicle was used to transport people when the causeway was closed.

The A35 between Dorchester and Bridport was also closed due to fallen trees.

Parts of Weymouth harbourside around the Town Bridge and Commercial Road were under water. Preston Beach took a pounding but despite some spray overtopping, flood defences held firm and rock armour helped reduce risk of flooding, said the Environment Agency.

A Dorset County Council spokesman said: “As part of ‘Operation Gale’, emergency services, Dorset councils, the Environment Agency, NHS, Public Health, the military, Coastguard and utility companies are now working together to deal with the effects of the weather.”

A dedicated helpline has been set up to support those affected by the storms across Dorset – the number is 01305 22100.

Further heavy rain is forecast today with the county issued with a yellow warning. Flood warnings are in place for rivers around Dorchester.