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Footage of storm seen for first time

By This is Somerset  |  Posted: February 26, 2010

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FRIDAY will see 20 years since one of the worst storms to hit the area in a century wreaked havoc in Clevedon, leaving behind it a trail of destruction.

The force of the waves destroyed parts of the sea wall, with one 10ft deep section being completely knocked out.

The wrought-iron railings along the seafront were also knocked down and swept into the road, and garden walls of the properties fronting the promenade were demolished.

Cars parked along The Beach were swept along the road.

Capping stones along the sea wall, which weighed about half a tonne each, were also lifted up by the waves and thrown into the road.

And a number of houses were flooded – although no one was evacuated.

People living near the seafront in streets such as Copse Road, Seavale Road and Woodview Road reported picking seaweed out of trees for weeks following the storm.

Salthouse Fields was left underwater, boats moored at Clevedon Pill washed up onto land and the pumping station on the seafront was washed into the sea and had to be rebuilt.

And some of the planks on Clevedon Pier by the Toll House were also ripped off by the force of the waves and washed away into the Channel.

The damage took around eight months for the council and homeowners to repair.

To mark two decades since the devastating storm, previously unseen dramatic footage captured by amateur cameraman John Swift, who was at the seafront when the storm hit on February 26, 1990, has been put on DVD.

The 15 minutes of video captured on a hand-held camera, which has been donated to Clevedon Heritage Centre, shows the huge waves breaking over the sea wall with the spray reaching more than 40ft into the air.

Heritage Centre manager, Mark Chislett, 42, was a member of Clevedon's coastguard team when the storm hit.

He said: "The tides were about a metre higher than they should have been. There was not a lot we could do apart from stop people walking along the beach and promenade and watch the storm unfold.

"I had seen bad storms before but to watch the waves and spray coming over the sea wall at such a height was incredible.

"The film captures first hand the strength of the storm and the devastation it caused."

It is hard to believe due to the severity of the storm, that is was not predicted. It was caused as a result of one of the highest spring tides of the year, an area of low pressure and gale force winds of up to 80mph.

The Met Office did not realise the severity of the storm until the hurricane force winds had reached the South West.

The forecast had been for gales inland and severe gales on coasts, but at some points the winds reached the highest notch on the scale – hurricane force 12.

Portishead was also badly hit, with the Lake Grounds being submerged in water as the sea broke over the promenade. Weston also suffered damage with many seafront properties flooded.

The storm was the second in just a few weeks to batter the district.

An earlier storm in January left a schoolgirl dead and four others injured after a piece of masonry from the roof of St Brandon's School was loosened in high winds and fell through the conservatory roof.

A woman also had to be rescued from her home in Alexandra Road after the chimney collapsed through the roof.

The DVD is on show at the Heritage Centre along with pictures of the great storm captured by residents.

One hundred copies of the DVD have been printed and are now on sale at £6.99 each, with all profits going to the Heritage Centre and Clevedon Pier maintenance fund.

Do you remember the storms or did you capture it on camera? If so email trudi.bird@clevedon.co.uk.

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