RESIDENTS were forced to evacuate from homes and businesses last night as a violent storm whipped up along the West Dorset coast.

Emergency services descended on West Bay as tidal conditions with 30-foot waves exceeded severe flood warning levels, the highest alert meaning a danger to life.

Residents living near the seafront were advised to evacuate and a refuge centre was set up at the Crown Inn and Colfox School in Bridport.

Jacqui Lovett of Heron Court told how part of a roof blew down and flattened her car.

She was told to leave her home and took shelter in the pub.

Around 30 people in the Cove House Inn at Chiswell on Portland were escorted out of the pub by police as huge waves battered the coast, sending shingle and water flying up to the promenade.

Police were keeping people away from the beach because it was so dangerous.

Wind speed at Portland measured almost 75mph which is hurricane force.

High tide had passed without incident at Chiswell but less than two hours later flood sirens were activated – the third time they have sounded in five weeks.

Huge puddles formed in the streets as spray washed over Chesil Beach and ran down Big Ope but there were no reports of homes being flooded. Residents had prepared all day by putting sandbags out.

Portland Beach Road was closed overnight due to flooding at Hamm Beach.

A refuge centre was set up at Underhill Methodist Church with the police, Army Reserve and volunteers on hand to help.

Anna Beech said: “We were in the Cove House Inn. The sirens went off and it was recommended we stay because of the risk of pebbles and debris coming over.”

Then she said the pub had a phone call and the police provided an escort.

She said: "We took the advice to come out and go home. You could see the waves coming in behind the shutters.”

Violent winds toppled lorries over and trees on the A35 and there were reports of motorists being trapped between obstructions.

Communities suffered further flooding misery as torrential rain and severe winds battered the county again.

Earlier in the day, schools and other public buildings were closed.

Flood warnings were also issued for Weymouth seafront and streets around the Park District and Preston Beach Road was closed from 6.30pm.

Huge waves smashed into the coast throughout the day, while rivers swelled and burst their banks as already sodden ground got a further pummelling from the elements.

Flooding was reported in numerous areas including at Wool, Sydling St Nicholas, Winterbourne Abbas, Charmin-ster, Milborne St Andrew, Came Down, Affpuddle, Martinstown, Winfrith and the Bakers Arms roundabout east of Bere Regis which had to be closed for a while.

Firefighters rescued a woman and her 18-month-old grandson at East Holme near Wool, after their car was stuck in floodwater.

Dorset County Council urged people to stay away from the coast as more bad weather is set to hit over the next 36 hours.

A spokesman said: “Waves up to ten metres high are set to crash into coastal areas, putting lives in danger if people get too close.

“The extreme conditions will also increase the likelihood of landslips along the Jurassic Coast, posing a real threat to peo ple on coastal paths, cliff tops and beaches.”

He added: “Elsewhere, communities along Dorset’s rivers are being urged to prepare for raised water levels as 1.5 inches of rainfall are expected, adding to the existing river, ground and road surface water problems.”

More wild weather forecast

TODAY will see high winds and heavy rain again hit the Dorset coast.
An amber Met Office weather warning for high winds will be in place until lunchtime, when the warning is downgraded to yellow.

A spokesman for the Met Office said: “Yet another storm is now developing to the west of the Azores.

“It will run north-eastwards across western parts of the UK during Friday and into Saturday, before clearing to the northeast.

“The associated frontal systems will bring spells of heavy and persistent rain, especially across the southern parts of England and Wales as well as further very strong winds.”

He added: “Around 10-20 mm of rain will fall fairly widely in the Yellow Warning area during this period, with 40 mm possible across parts of the southwest of England and south Wales.

“Showers following into Saturday may give localised accumulations of 5 to 10mm in an hour.”

Quad bike event cancelled

WEYMOUTH Beach X has been postponed due to the continued severe weather.

The popular event, which sees quad bikes racing across the beach at Weymouth, had been due to take place next weekend.

Organisers, together with Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, have decided to postpone it until November.

A spokesman for the event said: “The main concern is for the safety of both competitors, trade exhibitors and spectators, with potential wind damage to the temporary structures required for the event including trade stands, security fencing and signage to name a few.”

He added: “As event organisers we are in the 'spotlight' for this type of event and have a duty of care to the public and want them to enjoy the fantastic spectacle of our sport - but more importantly be safe.

“The storms that Weymouth has already endured has caused significant damage to the beach and moved high volumes of sand to one end of the beach, this would also cause severe restrictions with the course build.”

The event will now take place on November 15-16.