Every check of the news throughout Thursday brought an ever increasing sense of doom as it became clear that the west coast of Britain was to be hit by its highest tides in at least sixteen years. That sounded bad enough but with every new severe flood warning issued i.e. an immediate danger to loss of life, I began to wonder what those living along the Welsh coast would wake up to come Friday morning. At first light it didn’t take long to get a small sense of just how extreme conditions were with the section of Loughor estuary seen from our house appearing almost half as wide again as during the highest spring tides of recent years. With work on the horizon I only had an hour or so to go and assess any damage so headed down to Penclawdd as it’s an area I know very well. The drive there was impressive to say the least with almost the entire landscape between the main road and opposite shore full to bursting. Never have I seen such extreme water levels here and I can only hope that the resident feral ponies made it to safety before it was too late.
At Penclawdd I was amazed to find the main car park completely submerged and it was obvious that levels had been even higher before my arrival. Looking towards the line of houses that border this stretch of water it appeared initially as if they may have escaped the worst, even though their limited protection was very close to being breached. Sadly a closer inspection found the road submerged under a good couple of inches and its inevitable that properties have been affected.
Although extreme we were fortunate here that our relatively protected nature spared us any waves that could have made the flooding even worse. Those along more exposed stretches of coastline have not been so lucky and I simply sat in awe watching the news as it showed Aberystwyth promenade (my old university town) being ripped apart by the breaking waves. The damage there is colossal with benches smashed to pieces, sections of seawall completely missing and paving slabs tossed around like toys. The force of water was such that it was even able to move a car that some unfortunate soul did not manage to retrieve in time. This is a picture that has been repeated all along the west coast with many familiar locations such as Barmouth, Borth and Newgale all suffering severe flooding and evacuations.
Living on a hill certainly spared us from the storm surge but the continued bad weather has been throwing up its own surprises. A mighty clash of thunder in the early hours of Friday shook the entire house and seemed to rumble on for an eternity before finally silence, other than the roaring wind, returned. It was only in the morning that we discovered our neighbouring village was without power following a lightning strike. However things then got far too close for comfort last night when while watching TV I witnessed another bolt of lightning strike ground in our own garden barely ten meters from the house! The huge flash of light lasted less than a second but left me open mouthed and literally speechless. Fortunately no damage was caused but the alternatives have played heavily on my mind ever since. At least today has been calmer but already another storm is lining up for Sunday.