AUTHORITIES are counting the cost of the storm that slammed into Lyme Regis yesterday – with fears the final bill could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Seven seafront beach huts were battered by the ferocious winds and monstrous waves, and Lyme Regis Harbour was also badly affected.
Grahame Forshaw, Lyme Regis harbourmaster, said: “This has been the worst storm I have seen in Lyme Regis in my five years as harbourmaster.
“The damage to the harbour and the Cobb buildings alone could cost anything between £50,000 and £70,000.
“Windows have been put through because of the power of the waves, roof tiles have been knocked off, and the buildings have been left without electricity for two days. About 150 tons of pebbles have also been washed up on the harbour as they were pushed over by the waves from the Monmouth Beach side, and there is a lot of damage to the surface of the Cobb.”
Pebbles from the beach were strewn across Cart Road on the seafront, with the shingle measuring almost 1m deep at one point.
Howling winds and torrential rain slammed into the south west coast over the past few weeks, with the worst of it hitting Lyme Regis on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
Staff from Lyme Regis Town council and West Dorset District Council helped with the clear up operation, after seven of the town council-owned beach huts were smashed by the powerful waves.
Lyme Regis Mayor, Coun Sally Holman said: “It was a very unusual and damaging storm but the beach defences have done their job. Everyone is working together to limit the damage and put things right. I'm very pleased with all of our staff and the West Dorset team.”
The high tides on Wednesday morning reached the Cart Road huts, covering the seafront with stones and dragging the huts out towards the sea.
Huts at the eastern end of the seafront were worst affected, with doors ripped off and people's belongings strewn across the beach. Council staff helped the hirers move their belongings, cleared away damaged doors, and tidied up the debris littering the beach.
Town clerk John Wright said: “Town council staff were taken off normal duties to clear Cart Road. Our tractor is moving the shingle off Cart Road and putting it back onto the beach.
“We are boarding up the damaged day huts as a temporary measure but we need to get through the bad weather that is forecast later on in the week before we decide whether they need to be repaired or replaced.
“We have notified the people hiring the affected huts and the owners of the two private huts.
“Although there is significant damage, we have to put this into perspective - so far the sea defence system has worked well.”
Storage containers at Rinky Tinks ice cream parlour were also dragged out but were left intact, and stones from the beach filled the area usually occupied by tables, chairs and umbrellas.
Lucinda Cliff, owner of Rinky Tinks, said: “The pebbles actually came into the store, and there was some water damage as well.
“The pebbles were about one metre deep, you could tell because they covered the railings outside, our storage box outside was also quite heavily damaged but thankfully not that much damage has been caused, we have been quite lucky really.
“The team from the council were very good in removing all of the pebbles so I want to thank them as well.”
There was also some damage caused the chalets on Monmouth Beach, with the waves carrying some of the boats to within centimetres of them.
Lyme Regis Coastguards have also urged people to stay out of the seas in the stormy conditions.
Both the Coastguards and the Lyme Regis RNLI were called out to two separate incidents last weekend, after a windsurfer was believed to be in trouble off the Cobb, and a canoeist, Matthew O'Rourke, capsized from his kayak and had to swim half a mile back to shore.
Both incidents turned out to be false alarms with the canoeist getting safely back on to the beach just as the Coastguards arrived at the scene and the windsurfer making himself known to the coastguards during the search.
After Mr O'Rourke, from Burton Bradstock, was checked over by the medical teams the RNLI returned to sea to retrieve his surf-ski, which is a sea-kayak.