Dover closed as winds hit 100mph

Ferries cancelled, homes flooded, and trapped drivers rescued as South bears brunt of storms


Prolonged and, at times, torrential rainfall, as well as gales that reached a top speed of 100mph, gave southern England and Wales a tempestuous Saturday. A respite is promised today, before the storms return tomorrow. The Environment Agency has issued 110 flood warnings.

The south coast bore the brunt of the storms, which caused the cancellation of ferry services between England and France and at one point yesterday the port of Dover was closed.

As the storm swept in from the Atlantic on Friday, dozens of Cornish roads disappeared beneath two feet of water and the Tamar bridge on the Devon border was closed to all high-sided vehicles, motorcycles and pushbikes. Coastguards and a helicopter were scrambled in "treacherous" conditions to rescue a windsurfer washed on to rocks at Kingsbridge, Brixham.

In Dorset five people, including a pregnant woman and two children, were rescued when their car got stuck in floodwaters near Bridport, and in Somerset gales brought down power cables and trees. Winds of 100mph were recorded at the Needles lighthouse on the Isle of Wight and 75mph gusts blasted Lee-on-Solent in Hampshire. Firefighters launched boats in Haywards Heath, Sussex, to rescue workers from an industrial estate flooded when a culvert became blocked. Fire crews answered more than 40 calls as a result of floods and lightning strikes in the area, and in nearby Crawley, a tree caught fire after crashing down on electricity cables.

A tornado damaged 60 homes in Benfleet, Essex. In Kent, a school was closed and a pensioner who was trapped in her flooded car was plucked to safety. On the Suffolk coast, three oilmen were hauled out of the sea after 45mph gusts wrecked their rig supply boat and smashed it on to a jetty.

Wales was also badly affected by the storms. Torrential rain on Friday caused a rockslide at Chepstow railway station which shut the Newport to Gloucester line. Twelve passengers were rescued from rising floodwaters that trapped their coach near Haverfordwest, and 14 people were stranded in their cars around Tenby.

Yesterday, the Dartford and Sheppey crossings into Kent and the Medway bridge were closed, and forecasters were investigating reports of a second tornado in Lowestoft, Suffolk. In central London, the fireworks finale to the Lord Mayor's Parade was called off for the first time in more than 20 years.

Forecasters said the storm was "not untypical" for the time of year. Tony Burgess at the Met Office said it would abate today. "We're not thinking of severe gales, but maybe the odd gale in places. There could be another inch of rain," he said.

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