Big coastal clean up in wake of tidal surge

A big clean-up operation is underway on Yorkshire's coast after rising sea levels from a tidal surge retreated, leaving debris, mud, driftwood and litter in its wake.

Flooding in Whitby due to a tidal surge yesterday. Pictures: Ceri Oakes.

Eyewitnesses reported at least one of Whitby’s piers had suffered damaged masonry and railings and an ice-cream kiosk was lifted off the ground. but widespread damage to businesses and homes appears to have been avoided.

Today’s clean-up is largely focussed on the Church Street and Pier Road areas of the town.

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Councillor Mike Cockerill, cabinet member for flood protection at Scarborough Borough Council, said he was pleased by the flood protection afforded to Whitby by its piers, despite major work being needed to restore them.

Businesses in Whitby had been braced for the worst.

Prior to yesterday’s tidal surge, talks between the borough council, Whitby Town Council, North Yorkshire County Council and utilities companies have been ongoing in order to plug a £3.5m shortfall to meet the estimated £8.6m costs to refurbish the structures.

Coun Cockerill said: “Standing up to conditions like this shows how well they work in the first place. It’s encouraging but they are absolutely vital to Whitby and the Council is committed to doing the work.”

Fortunately, yesterday’s flood waters, did not cause anyone to take up an offer made by Whitby’s Riviera Guesthouse, whose managers posted on Facebook that they had kept six guest rooms available over the weekend and into the start of next week in case there was a need for emergency accommodation.

Zed Khan, one of the guesthouse’s managers, said: “No one took the offer but it still stands. I don’t think people were too badly affected, they are more prepared than three years ago.

Damage to the pier after the tidal surge hit Whitby yesterday.

“The water came up to the sandbags on this side and there is debris lying around like seaweed but other than that the water level has gone back down.”

Daniel Mullan, a member of staff at Harry’s Bar on Pier Road, said the bar managed to stay open as normal last night and is very much open for business today.

Mr Mullan said: “It was a lot quieter than usual last night. It was crazy out there. Amazingly, people were still trying to go down the pier. The road was closed off and we were getting phone calls all day asking if we were open.

“There is still a layer of sand on the street but all the debris, twigs and branches have now been cleared up.”

Damage on Battery Parade, Whitby.

At 5am today, the coastguard scrambled a search and rescue team and deployed one of its helicopters to the scene of a report of a man seen standing on a sea wall who then vanished after high waves crashed onto the spot where he was stood. Police officers found the man safe and well a short time later.

A spokesperson for HM Coastguard in Bridlington said: “We have been a little bit busier than normal but fortunately we have not have to make any rescues.

“We don’t encourage people wave-dodging in these conditions, or getting too close to take pictures.”

North Yorkshire County Council tweeted: “We have reopened roads in Whitby except Pier Road where damage to footpath being repaired. A174 Sandsend also opened.

Council workers begin clearing up Pier Road.

“Roads in Scarborough remain closed due to flooding. Clean up and inspections underway. We hope to open them later today.”

Thirty properties were evacuated in the East Yorkshire town of Hornsea and there were also reports of a house fire in the same area.

An elderly woman and children had to be rescued from a car that had become surrounded by water on the seafront.

Elsewhere on the East Coast last night, evacuations were taking place in Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, and Jaywick, Mistley and Mersea in Essex, and residents in 1,800 properties in east Suffolk were told to leave their homes.

Doug Wilson, flood duty manager for the Environment Agency, said: “High tides and strong winds caused large waves along the east coast yesterday, bringing a risk of significant flooding and danger to life.

“The Environment Agency issued over 100 flood warnings, operated its permanent flood defences including the Thames Barrier and Hull Barrier, and set up temporary defences in areas at risk. These actions protected over 550,000 properties.

Businesses in Whitby had been braced for the worst.

“In the event, the combination of the peak surge, strongest winds and largest waves didn’t coincide in all areas and did not reach the most dangerous levels that were possible all along the east coast. Some properties in North and East Yorkshire were flooded and our thoughts are with those affected.

“Environment Agency teams are out on the ground today inspecting and repairing any damaged defences, and will continue to warn and inform the public of flood risks, as necessary. We wish to thank the emergency services, local authorities, the military and volunteers who worked with Environment Agency staff to prepare for this event.”

The Met Office warned of the possibility of some isolated coastal wintry showers today, though most areas were forecast to enjoy unbroken sunshine. Temperatures remain cold however, expected to peak at four degrees Celsius, with the brisk breeze only gradually easing.

Tonight, conditions across the region are forecast to turn cloudier and less cold, as rain, initially snow in places, spreads southeast around midnight, bringing minimum temperatures of minus three.

Tomorrow, expect a dull and damp day, with cloudy skies, outbreaks of rain, and some persistent mist and fog in places. Whilst less cold than recently, it will still feel rather chilly, with the maximum temperature predicted to be seven degrees.

Damage to the pier after the tidal surge hit Whitby yesterday.
Damage on Battery Parade, Whitby.
Council workers begin clearing up Pier Road.