The Westcountry was battered by winds of more than 90mph last night as forecasters warned of giant waves and more disruption to come.
The Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning up until midnight with winds expected to reach severe gale force.
Devon County Council’s Highway Operations Control Centre took more than 300 calls overnight as Devon was hit by heavy rain and gusts.
Conditions are forecast to continue throughout the morning, with 70mph winds expected over coasts and hills and 60mph inland. The south and east of the county have been hardest hit by the storms and a severe flood warning is in place right along the South coast.
In Topsham sandbags have been handed out to tackle the flooding.
A major incident has been declared in Dawlish by Police after homes in Sea Lawn Terrace had to be evacuated when part of the sea wall and railway line was washed away, and a section of the road at Sea Lawn Terrace collapsed.
Network Rail estimate around 80m of both tracks at Dawlish have been severely damaged by the sea, washing away ballast and the foundations on which the track is built.
There is also severe damage to the track and platforms at Dawlish station.
Its engineers are on site at a number of locations in the south west of England and are making repairs while the line between Exeter and Plymouth will remain closed until further notice owing to the damage at Dawlish.
An initial assessment of the damage at Dawlish will be carried out as soon as the weather subsides to help Network Rail identify the extent and scope of repairs required to enable trains to run safely.
Passengers are advised to check with their train operator or National Rail Enquiries for the latest information on how the weather is impacting on journeys before setting off.
The County Council established an emergency rest centre at the local leisure centre overnight where more than 20 residents were initially given temporary shelter.
Exmouth, Sidmouth and Seaton seafronts have been closed, and the high tides have also flooded properties in Exmouth, Lympstone, Starcross and Topsham.
Police have now closed the road between Topsham Railway Station and Darts Farm to all traffic.
Fallen trees have also closed a number of roads across the county including Dalton Lane in Newton Poppleford, Yettington Road near Budleigh Salterton, Whitford Road at Colyton, A379 at Blackpool Sands, Fire House Lane at Abbotskerswell, Holne Cross at Ashburton, the old A30 at Rockbeare, A375 at Sidbury, and the B3186 Collaton Cross at Newton Ferrers. A tree is also down on the A399 at Brayford but the road is passable with care, and expect delays on the A377 at Barnstaple Cross where there has been a landslip.
Devon’s Highway teams are clearing debris and trees from roads, and are also scouting the network for further problems. The County Council is warning of the potential of problems on minor roads, and also to be alert to the possibility of landslips in coastal areas.
Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highway Management and Flood Prevention, said: “These are some of the most horrendous conditions I can remember, and the combination of heavy rain and strong winds is causing disruption across the county. The problems with the rail line at Dawlish have again shown how vulnerable transport links are in Devon. A number of roads are closed due to fallen trees and power cables and the weather is sure to have a severe impact on our already fragile network. People should be prepared for the risk of further disruption throughout today, and motorists are advised to stick to main roads where possible, not to drive through floodwater and not to drive through road closures. Our staff are working hard to deal with the damage that has been caused.”
An amber warning for wind is in place throughout today and strong westerly winds are forecast to shift the focus to the North coast as the day progresses. Further downpours are expected overnight on Thursday with the possibility of more storms on Friday evening into Saturday morning.
Marsh Barton Road flooded under the railway bridge. Stagecoach's Service B now diverting via Sainsburys.
Western Power Distribution said 15,000 homes between Taunton and Penzance had been affected by power.
In Exeter two trees were taken down by the storm in Bridge Road and a wall was collapsed by the wind on Fore Street. (see pictures below)
In Dawlish two people were rescued from a car in flood water at 21:20.
A tree has also blocked the line between Liskeard and Bodmin Parkway. No services are running between St Erth and Penzance.
There is currently a flood warning out for the River Culm (Lower) from Cullompton to Stoke Canon, which the Environment Agency say could affect the Exeter to London Paddington railway line.
Live travel updates:
The Environment Agency has issued "threat to life" warnings for Lyme Regis harbour, Weymouth seafront and West Bay harbour.
The Met Office has issued yellow weather warnings, for rain or severe gales force winds, for the South West until Saturday.
Chris Tubbs, Met Office deputy chief meteorologist, said: “We have more Atlantic depressions heading our way during the rest of the week and over the weekend. Heavy rain and gales sweeping in from the west for Wednesday brings the risk of further flooding in some areas and possible travel disruption.
“There is now increased confidence that much of the southern half of Britain will see further heavy rain on Thursday evening and night, and that will be quickly followed by another storm early Saturday.”
The embattled Environment Agency has issued flood warnings for most of the south coast with high tide at about 10am tomorrow. In all, 12 flood warnings are in place, along with 35, lesser, flood alerts.
John Curtin, head of incident management at the agency, said: “Following the wettest January on record in some places we are now set to experience successive bands of heavy rain heavy rain fall lasting into the weekend.
“With further river and coastal flooding expected this week we have teams working around the clock to protect homes and communities, and over 117,000 homes have been protected over the past three days.
“Strong winds and waves could be dangerous, and we would urge people to stay away from coastal paths and promenades, and not to drive through flood water.
“In the face of this severe weather we would also remind people that they can sign up to receive free flood warnings, check their flood risk and keep up to date with the latest situation on the Environment Agency website and on social media using #floodaware.”
In December and January, the Exeter-based Met Office issued 101 weather warnings for rain and 58 for strong winds across the country.
Severe gales, up to 80mph, are forecast on some exposed coasts at lunchtime tomorrow with inland gusts of up to 60mph expected to bring down trees.
“A gradual change to more showery conditions is expected on Wednesday but still with some longer spells of rain, which could bring a further 20-30mm (0.8-1.2ins) over the hills in Wales but with 10-15mm (0.4-0.6ins) being a more general figure,” the Met office said.
“The public should be aware of the risk of disruption from either the wind or rain elements in this warning.”
Yet another warning is in place from 5pm on Thursday into Friday morning with heavy and persistent rain likely to affect much of southern England. Severe gale force winds are expected to return in the early hours of Saturday.
“Computer models have moved into much better agreement now for this weather system but unfortunately the most likely outcome is not good news,” the Met Office said.
“This means that there is now increased confidence in a period of persistent rain, which may bring a fairly widespread 15-25mm (0.6-1ins) to the areas covered by the warning, possibly around 30mm (1.2ins) in some southern counties.
“This rain, falling so soon after the previous batch seems likely to exacerbate problems with flooding, especially as further heavy rain seems very likely early on Saturday.”
Cornwall Council estimates the weather has already caused £4 million worth of damage across the county while in Devon it stands at about £2 million.
Both councils said they had emergency teams on standby to react to incidents while others were actively monitoring the most vulnerable areas.
“We know that many areas of Cornwall are still clearing up after the severe weather we have experienced over the past few days but we need to ensure that local residents are getting ready for this next period of bad weather “ said Geoff Brown, the council’s cabinet member for homes and communities.
“We are asking people to follow the advice on dealing with the potential severe weather, and would remind motorists not to drive through flood water.”
At the weekend, the main road in Bude had to be closed with waves overtopping defences causing flooding.
Wall down. Structurally okay but window frame gone and glass unsafe in wind. Secured as best could and cordoned off pic.twitter.com/34Nf5OsvUA
— Exeter City Police (@ExeterCityNPT) February 4, 2014
— Exeter City Police (@ExeterCityNPT) February 4, 2014