THEY battened down the hatches across West Dorset as 2014 crashed in on a wave of violent storms, high winds and sheeting rain.

Following a raft of flood warnings across the county during the past week, sandbags have been delivered to low-lying and harbour communities along the Jurassic coast.

Bridport Town Clerk Bob Gillis said the town council had been busy distributing sandbags where requested - largely in West Bay and Allington.

“Where we have received requests we have delivered them as quickly as possible and we have had feedback from people saying how much they appreciate that,” he added.

He said in light of the weather and the challenges in store with climate change the council was working on how it - and the community - can respond to extreme situations.

He said: “Longer term, the town council is looking, through its environment and social well being committee, at producing a community resilience plan, which, as well as addressing current emergency issues, will also look to address future challenges from changes in the climate.

“There will be opportunities for members of the public to be involved in the preparation and delivery of the plan and if anyone would like to be involved please contact the town council.”

During the very high winds on Monday there were fears that wires holding the Bridport Christmas lights could be bringing down part of a building in South Street, which had to be sealed off while the area was made safe.

Mr Gillis said: “ As soon as we received the alert that, due to the severe weather, there may be a problem with one set of Christmas lights, the Town Surveyor cordoned off the area in front of the building and quickly arranged for the lighting to be taken down.

“We are very grateful for the assistance received at the scene from the fire service, police and West Dorset District Council Building Control officers. The quick response ensured that the area was made safe, that the public was not put in any danger and that the removal work could take place as soon as possible. We are also grateful for the co-operation of the occupants of the building and we will now be looking to confirm the cause of the problem and to ensure that it cannot happen again.”

AT West Bay, the end of the esplanade has been closed off until the weather dries up, but the sea defences have held up well, said harbourmaster James Radcliffe.

He said the harbour withstood the worst of the weather with remarkably little difficulty.

He said: “The harbour defences have been fantastic. We have survived with minimal damage.

“We didn't get it as bad as it could have been and our sea defences are quite new and they are standing up to what they have been built for.

“We literally had a bit of beach up on the esplanade, two small sections of some handrail broken off on some steps.

“We had a few boats break free but they were sorted straightaway.

“We have closed the end of the esplanade because of the extra rain we have had which has made the cliff very wet so with a heightened chance of landslip we have closed it for now until the weather dries up a bit.”

He said the majority of people had been sensible about keeping out of harm's way - but not all.

He added: “You still unfortunately get the ones who don't listen to the telly or the warnings.”

Palmers Brewery in Bridport was struck by lightning during a sudden violent thunderstorm on Tuesday, for the second time in 12 months.

The brewery's building on South Street, the only thatched-roof brewery in the United Kingdom, was hit just after 8am this morning which lead to a full evacuation of the staff from the premises.

Darren Batten, the head brewer at Palmers Brewery said: “We were hit just after 8am. There was a massive hail storm and a massive bang and a flash of light, and then the alarms started sounding, so we had to evacuate into the rain.

“There has been no damage to the building, and thankfully nobody is injured. We think the lightning hit the scaffolding on the end of the Malt House building, which is our biggest storage area which is where all the sensors are which started the alarms.”