Follow live: A day in the life of our flood hit coast

Floods. Damage to Cromer promenade.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY Floods. Damage to Cromer promenade. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

David Powles
Monday, December 9, 2013
9:34 AM

Four days after the storms and tidal surge caused flooding in dozens of the region’s towns and villages, we will attempt to visit as many of the affected communities as possible to see how they are coping in the aftermath.

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Floods. Walcott damage after the sea surges.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYFloods. Walcott damage after the sea surges. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Journalist David Powles will spend Monday on the road reporting along the coast from Southwold in Suffolk, to Hunstanton in West Norfolk.


Along the way he hopes to speak to people in some of the worst hit villages and towns about how they have coped in the days since.


This will include Lowestoft, Yarmouth, Hemsby, Horsey, Walcott, Cromer, Blakeney and Wells.


During the day reports, video diaries and pictures will be posted here. You can also follow the progress on Twitter @david_powles


For a full report see Tuesdays Eastern Daily Press.
A day in the life of our flood hit coast


Click through the playlist to view all of David Powles' video reports




A day in the life of our flood hit coast

Click through the playlist to view all of David Powles' video reports

SOUTHWOLD

They are some of our most cherished places, where thousands live happily, and thousands more enjoy memories of days out with family and friends.


But our coast has taken a battering and parts of it look very different know to what we are used to.


Four days on from the floods, thats much of the point of what Im up to today - to try and build a picture of how our coast has been impacted - and how it intends to pick itself up again.


Covering the story from landlocked Norwich it has been surreal to see images of places we all know and love receiving such a battering from nature.


And take a short walk along the seafront of Southwold and it doesnt take long to see the impact - and how some of our most iconic landmarks have been hit.


Around half a dozen of the towns iconic beach huts lay in tatters, pretty much destroyed by the waves which hit them hard.


Yet the feeling in Southwold is one of optimism, because it pretty much escaped the worst.


Ben Whiting, 34, said: We came down here at 9.30pm on Thursday and the waves were high, they almost reached the pier.


But in the main I think people do feel relieved, especially when they see what happened elsewhere. I guess a lot if that was down to the planning.


Further up the coast communities havent been so lucky. Its not just holiday homes that were hit, but the places people have lived their lives.


LOWESTOFT


Events such as this can often bring out the best in people and there are many signs of this in Lowestoft.


At the recently opened Daisy's Restaurant in the town centre piles of rolled up carpet have been placed outside.


But inside the scene looks normal, other than a bedding of straw placed on the floor so that it can stay open. An ingenious piece of quick-thinking.


A few doors down The Joseph Conrad Wetherspoons is open, business as usual, despite the fact that just a few days ago the water level reached around two-feet high inside.


Adie Fox, manager, said: "We were open on Thursday when the water started coming in and quickly had to get people out.


"When I came in on Friday morning all the staff were here ready to help clear it out. We were open again by 8am on Saturday.


"I don't think people could believe how quickly we reopened, I think they were relieved to see it.


"The team were excellent, everyone rallying around."


Despite the efforts, the venue's cellar has had to be condemned with thousands of pounds worth of stock lost. The wooden floor panels are also likely to need replacing.


Yet, across the town, there is a sense of relief that the damage was not more severe.


Rhoda Duffield, 53, from Kirkley, said: "I have never seen the water levels as high as that, it was very surprising.


"Yes, we have still got damage, but they have done a very good job protecting the town and clearing the damage up."


GORLESTON, YARMOUTH AND CAISTER-ON-SEA


On the beach at Caister lays the remains of a bonfire smouldering away.


Normally you'd imagine it to be what's left of a Saturday night party by the sea.


But this is all that remains of the Beach Cafe at Caister, which was ripped apart by last week's waves.


It's a stark reminder that just down the road at Yarmouth and Gorleston they've experienced a lucky escape.


Both towns are remarkably unscathed. The only reminder of Thursday night being a few sandbags that haven't yet been removed from the front of homes and businesses.


Yvonne Bendon, 40, of Yarmouth, sat by the beach on Thursday along with scores of other people, as the tides came in.


She described the atmosphere as 'jovial' and praised the efforts that had taken place to keep the town safe.


She added: "We were lucky, I realise that. It felt like we were more ready than the last time in 2007. "


Had the tides grown higher, Yarmouth Sealife Centre would have been one of the first to be hit. As it was, they closed for just an hour in preparation for the second tidal surge on Friday morning.


Terri Harris, general manager, said: "We did everything to get ready. The chairs and tables were piled high and shop stock taken off the floor. But fortunately it didn't come.


"I think a lot of it was down to preparation. We got advance warning and everyone did a great job pulling together.


"We had police here from Hereford who said they would help us should we need it."


Their colleagues at Hunstanton Sealife Centre weren't so lucky and most of the fish and animals there had to be rescued and taken to Yarmouth.


It means now is a good time to pay a visit and extra staff have been drafted in from around the country to help them cope.


Mrs Harris added: "We had only one turtle, now we have two. Instead of eight penguins, we now have 14."


Christine Pitcher, display supervisor, took part in the rescue operation in which sadly a small number of fish died, but fortunately most survived.


She added: "It was very stressful and emotional, but at least we know what is happening. The fish and animals don't."


HEMSBY


It's the small details that really make the impact felt in some parts of our coast hit home.


At Hemsby beach around half a dozen coastal homes lay in tatters. Several have slid down the cliffs, others are missing their back walls or have disappeared completely.


In one of these the back wall has been ripped away to expose the owner's bedroom. You can clearly see the white linen on their bed.


They presumably had to leave in such a hurry possessions could not be saved.


Standing on the beach peering into the wreckage it's impossible not to feel like you are intruding into someone's privacy - and their grief.


Yet, like me, many other people have travelled to Hemsby to survey the scene.


They've been tagged as 'disaster tourists' by certain sections of the nationally media, but that's not true of most of the people I speak to.


They have a connection with the place and felt compelled to come and look and see if they can help.


Trevor Bean, 66, from Norwich, said: "We've come here for years on holiday and have a caravan nearby, it's devastating to see what has happened.


"We wanted to come here today to see how we can help, we want to donate."


A Save Hemsby appeal is underway, but the immediate need is to clear the homes from the beach and make sure their owners have somewhere to stay.


As well as the homes, the old lifeboat house was destroyed by the sea. It's a very different scene on the beach to the one thousands of us have grown up to love and enjoy.


WALCOTT AND BACTON


For anyone who loves Norfolk and its people , what a sad sight Walcott and Bacton are.


The villages, in particular Walcott, have been left in turmoil by the power of the sea.


As you drive into Walcott the scale of the devastation quickly becomes clear. Several hundred feet back from the sea people are piling up possessions, destroyed and broken, to be taken away.


But as you near the coast the scene becomes like something you've probably only witnessed on television.


Whole homes have been ripped apart. There's missing walls, broken beams and exposed properties everywhere.


We are not just talking about static caravans either.


The main road through the village is covered in sand and impassable while diggers work to remove it.


Front gardens have become makeshift beaches.


In Bacton there's a caravan in the road, forced back by the strength of the waves which slammed into the village.


The most heartbreaking sight is a field between the two villages, full of people's possessions, washed up and washed away.


But there's also a buzz about the place and that's because this is one community which isn't prepared to simply give in.


At the heart of the recovery process is Pauline Porter, chair of the parish council and civil contingency co-ordinator for Walcott. She's in charge of proceedings and with the spirit and energy I witnessed I'm sure it won't take long for the recovery to take hold.


Her small holiday caravan has become Walcott HQ, for a while anyway. UK Power Networks turned up with a large command unit and Pauline has taken over that as well.


Some have questioned the need to help Walcott recover, asking why people can't just move somewhere else.


I ask Pauline why she's giving up her time to help the village?


She said: "I've lived here for nine and a half years and it's not really about the village, but the people in it."


On her role she added: "If we have a problem I try and fix it. I work between the various agencies trying to get stuff sorted.


"On the night of the floods we worked to keep people safe and warm and sheltered, now it is about finding shelter, food, clothes, helping people and letting them know we are there for them."


In another sign of community spirit a steady stream of volunteers have headed to this north Norfolk village to help put it back in its right place. 


CROMER AND SHERINGHAM


Even now, four days after the high tides, there's palpable shock in Cromer at just how high the waves came.


There's crowds of people walking along the cliff top, all of them talking about the same subject.


'The tides came up to here,' one man can be heard saying. 'I've never seen anything like it,' another.


Sat so high atop the cliffs, Cromer's residents were always likely to escape serious damage, but the seafront, promenade and iconic pier were not so lucky.


Diggers remove rubble from the footpaths, meanwhile gaping holes can clearly be seen on the wooden pier, panels stacked up at various points.


Like everywhere I've seen today the place is a hive of activity as the recovery gets underway.


That's all we can do, according to Terry Webb, from Sheringham, which lost two cafes to the waves.


He added: "We did all we could to be ready, but you are never going to stop the force of the sea when it comes like that.


"All we have to do now is rebuild."


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