Ferry services were cancelled and a beach was closed today as Britain’s south coast was battered by huge seas and gale force winds.
The storm conditions, caused by a weather depression coming up from the Bay of Biscay, are due to peak later today with winds of 80mph forecast for the Isles of Scilly in the Western Approaches.
High tides driven by the gale force south-easterly and southerly winds have put mainland coastal communities at risk from flooding.
Because of the conditions there was a severe flood warning in place between Land’s End in Cornwall and Lyme Regis in Dorset, said the Environment Agency.
The warnings meant that flooding to homes, businesses and main roads was expected, and people were advised to use sandbags and flood boards to protect their homes.
Sightseers were warned by coastguards not to play “chicken” with the big waves.
Police were on hand to discourage people from getting close to the waves at Porthleven on the Lizard Peninsula and at Penzance.
Conditions were “very dangerous,” said a Falmouth coastguard spokesman.
And motorists had to contend with high winds, surface water, and felled trees and branches.
The gales are set to sweep across Wales and Northern Ireland later, according to forecasters.
Brittany Ferries said today’s 4pm service from Plymouth to Santander in northern Spain had been cancelled because of the stormy conditions.
Passengers who would have travelled on the crossing were being given a full refund at Plymouth, said a spokesman.
Travellers booked on that service who wished to cross the Channel on the unaffected Plymouth-Roscoff, northern France, route would be given a 25% discount on the outbound fare.
The next Brittany Ferries crossing to Roscoff leaves at 11pm today.
The storm conditions also affected ferry service to the Isles of Scilly, where winds are now forecast to hit 80mph later in the day.
The ferry did not sail from Penzance on the 28-mile trip to the Scillies at 9.15 am today.
A spokesman for the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company said it did not look as though there would a service tomorrow either.
In Looe, east Cornwall, coastguards asked for the help of the police to call surfers out of the water and close the beach.
In Torquay, Devon, the seafront was closed for a time because of the huge waves.
And it was likely to be shut again for a time tonight when the high tide is due.
Across the South West there were reports of trees, branches and cables being brought down by the wind, but the police said there were no major problems.
As the winds began to rise, some yachts were washed off their moorings in harbours.
Falmouth coastguards’ watch assistant Henry Purbrick issued a warning to those who may get too close to the waves.
“It looks like fun to play chicken – but it is not safe,” he said, saying people should be: “Very, very cautious.”
Across the region fishing boats sought the safety of harbour but, despite warnings, some surfers still took on the waves.
Rail services into and out of Cornwall were delayed this morning when a piece of corrugated iron was blown onto the track.
All trains were halted while the dislodged part of the roof over the footbridge between platforms at St Austell railway station was removed from the line.
A First Great Western spokesman said the 9.47am service from Penzance to London Paddington was delayed by over an hour because of the problem.
There were also reports of trees being blown onto the track in Cornwall and at Dawlish in Devon, but they did not cause serious delays.