PUNISHING wind and rain put emergency services through their paces as Storm Dennis raged through Dorset over the weekend.

Treacherous conditions saw multiple crashes on the county's roads, with several routes becoming impassable or barely passable due to flooding and fallen trees.

The A31 and A35 were among the roads that were closed, as 50mph winds brought trees crashing onto the highway - including, as reported, a 'huge' 400 year-old oak tree that landed on two cars, bringing down power cables on the A31 - fortunately, a 'miracle' escape for all nine people involved.

That incident was just one of a series of call outs for police, firecrews, paramedics and highways crews. Others included a couple who were helped from their car on Saturday afternoon by a team of firefighters from Sherborne after getting trapped by rising floodwater.

Flooded roads in Dorset included Weymouth's Radipole Park Drive; the A352 at Winfrith Newburgh; the A35 near Monkeys Jump roundabout and other sections of the Dorchester bypass, Burton Road at Bridport, and roads in Sydling St Nicholas.

Rail passengers were also affected: high winds saw train speed restrictions cause delays and cancellations on Saturday amid signalling faults - and on Sunday flooding on the tracks brought services to a standstill.

There were huge waves at the coast and coastal communities were put on standby in case of flooding.

Meanwhile, several sports fixtures were called off: home and away matches for football teams in Dorchester were postponed, as well as home games for Bridport FC and Portland FC being put on ice due to waterlogged pitches and high winds.

Those same lashing winds and rain caused a coastal path to crumble at Swanage, as cliffs gave way and formed a mud slip on the beach below. Officials put a cordon in place on Saturday afternoon and residents are being urged to avoid the area.

A Dorset Council spokesman said: "It's stating the obvious, but please keep away from cliffs. There's a high risk of rock falls and land slips. (The) situation is changing rapidly... more cliff falls and land slips likely."

Meanwhile, even those choosing to remain indoors were affected. Early Sunday morning round 30,000 homes in the DT1, DT2 and DT3 postcodes were hit by the largest power cut the area has seen for some time, according to a spokesman for electricity supplier SSE.

A yellow warning for rain was due to be lifted at 9pm yesterday, according to the Met Office, with winds, scattered showers and brighter spells forecast today.