THE blustery, rainy weather we've had lately with Storm Diana - yes, we have to get used to a name for every bout of weather now - brings back memories of a proper storm.

You have to suspend your belief when you see this photo of parked cars thrown into crumpled piles at Chiswell, Portland by the great storm of February 1979. The surge picked up cars and tossed them into piles of wreckage.

Portland's naval base, the causeway and Victoria Square were left under water after 60ft waves crashed over the Chesil Bank, flooding houses.

The road was closed and people couldn’t get to work. .

All the cars at Chesil Beach Motors were damaged and others were thrown around like Dinky toys and piled up against houses.

Life on Portland has been influenced by the weather for as long as it has existed - the only way off the island lies below sea level on the lee of Chesil Beach, as does Chiswell.

An ancient community, Chiswell had lived on the edge of disaster for centuries prior to 1979. Since Tudor times, fishermen's houses were built on the shifting stones of the Chesil Bank and suffered frequent flooding owing to severe storms and massive waves, which have a fetch across the Atlantic Ocean.

Following two severe flood events in the 1970s, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council and Wessex Water decided to investigate the structure of the beach, and possible coastal management schemes.

In the 1980s, it was agreed that a scheme to protect against a one-in-five year storm would be practicable and it would reduce flood depth and duration in more severe storms. Hard engineering techniques were employed in the scheme, including a gabion beach crest running one mile to the north of Chiswell, an extended sea wall in Chesil Cove and a culvert running from inside the beach, underneath the beach road and into Portland Harbour, to divert flood water away from low lying areas.

Sadly, however, all these were not enough to save Portland from another terrible storm in January 1990 in which the sea overwhelmed the defensive wall. A great deal of damage was caused and Portland was cut off from the mainland.

Yet perhaps the worst storm Portland has ever seen was back in the 1800s when Chiswell was the biggest settlement on Portland. Then, in 1824, a hurricane hit the Dorset coast. Some 36 houses were destroyed, another 100 made uninhabitable and 26 people were killed - the community was destroyed.