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Huge waves leave region’s coastline changed forever

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: January 07, 2014

Boats shelter behind the harbour walls at Lyme Regis. Picture by Richard Austin

by Lyn Barton and Toby Meyjes

Towering waves which pounded the Westcountry yesterday have left trail of destruction, battering historic harbours and washing whole beaches away.

Some of the region’s tourist hotspots were left counting the cost after 30foot-high waves pummelled seafront businesses.

Gigantic waves swept away the balcony of a popular beach-side restaurant at Trevaunance Cove, near St Agnes.

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At Porthmeor in St Ives, beach huts were wrecked and decking for the cafe overlooking the beach suffered substantial damage.

Meanwhile the beach at Whitsand Bay in South East Cornwall resembled a lunar landscape after its golden sands were swallowed by the storm.

The winds, whipped up by a powerful storm in the Atlantic, hit the Isles of Scilly first where harbourmaster Dale Clark described giant waves washing over the quay.

“A thick wall of water was washing over the entire quay. People on the islands were saying they had never seen anything like it,” he said.

Mr Clark witnessed the ferocity of the storm from his office on the quay as it was too dangerous to leave.

“The entire building was vibrating and shaking.

“You could hear the roar of the waves as they washed over the wall. The whole quay was just awash with breaking waves.”

The tempest had left the quay, a lifeline for the islanders, severely damaged, he said, and work was now under way to make it usable. At Portreath harbour, an iconic stone hut has been smashed to pieces by huge waves.

The century-old structure could not withstand the battering of the monster swell estimated to have reached more than 30 feet in height, with its full force felt after almost 100 tonnes of the harbour wall fell into the sea.

An iconic natural rock formation shaped like a giant doughnut was destroyed by freak 30ft waves at Porthcothan Bay, which is famed for its picture-postcard beach and caves, including a massive stone archway.

But the ferocious storms battered the beloved landmark and it collapsed into the sea.

Locals say their idyllic beach, nestled between Falmouth and Padstow on the North Cornwall coast, will never be the same.

Resident Tamsin Swindells, 39, said everyone was devastated by the loss of the stone archway, known locally as The Anchor or Jan Leverton’s Rock.

She said: “It’s just a pile of rocky rubble now – it looks like a demolition site. The beach just won’t be the same without it; it’s completely changed.”

The damage was not confined the coastline with hundreds of properties across the region succumbing to storm damage. More than 100 residents remain trapped in their village after floods have left all access roads under three feet of water.

Muchelney, which lies in between Taunton and Yeovil, has been cut off for four days after the roads flooded.

Residents can now only able to leave the village by boat – the water is so deep not even a tractor can make it through.

Many of the villagers were able to get essential supplies yesterday (Mon) after a boat travelled to meet a Tesco delivery that had been ordered.

Muchelney was devastated last year after suffering the worst floods in 90 years. One resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “We’ve been completely cut off. We’re not able to get out at the moment. The only way out is by boat.”

The Met Office said the forecast over the next few days represented an “improving picture” but that winds would remain strong and there would be a chance of heavy rain.

An Environment Agency spokesman said the risk of flooding would continue for the region. He said: “We would ask people to be prepared by checking their flood risk, signing up to free flood warnings and keeping an eye on the latest flood updates via (our) website and Twitter.”

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