Worst storm surge in 60 years destroys homes and leaves traders counting the cost

The Northern Echo: Fran Marr, a resident of the Whitby Merchant Seamen Hospital Houses, looks at flood damage to her flat Fran Marr, a resident of the Whitby Merchant Seamen Hospital Houses, looks at flood damage to her flat

RETIRED cleaner Fran Marr spent Thursday afternoon hanging Christmas decorations in her flat overlooking Whitby harbour in preparation for a festive visit by her sons.

As the biggest storm surge to hit the town in 60 years entered the port, the 68-year-old remained unaware of its existence until a friend called and offered her a refuge.

On her return to her home in the grade II listed Whitby Merchant Seaman’s Hospital Houses on Church Street at 8pm, a scene of devastation greeted her.

Her fridge was floating in her lounge and almost all her possessions, which were uninsured, had been destroyed by a 4ft wave of seawater that had surged over the harbour walls.

Mrs Marr said: “I was in tears when I saw it and have been told it could take months to get it sorted so I can live here again.”

Mrs Marr was one of six pensioners whose flats in the charity-run complex were deluged alongside scores of other properties surrounding the harbour.

Whitby Coastguard and firefighters visited vulnerable residents as more than 3,000 properties and the town centre was plunged into darkness after two electricity sub-stations flooded.

New Quay Road was closed by police over fears of electrocution.

To meet the emergency demand, council and police officers remained on duty overnight on Thursday and off-duty emergency services staff were drafted in at 4am yesterday (Friday, December 6) to work alongside search and rescue teams protecting of properties ahead of another high tide.

Evacuated residents began gathering at West Cliff Congregational Church as floodwaters surged into properties on New Quay Road, including The Angel Hotel.

Its manager, Victoria Galtry, said she remained in shock by the speed in which the water had flowed into the 500-capacity premises.

Ms Galtry, who evacuated customers and ten staff in darkness as the ground floor was deluged, said the clean-up bill could run into tens of thousands of pounds.

Church Street fruit wholesaler Billy Wilson returned to his warehouse to find everything floating in seawater.

He said: “We’re pretty cheesed off, there’s not much we can salvage. All we can do is clear up and start again.”

Some 100 properties remained without power and dozens of businesses were closed as traders and structural engineers surveyed the damage today (Friday, December 6).

Northern Powergrid said it had dispatched every staff member and contractor available to restore power, but warned it may cut power again should there be further flooding tonight.

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