Amber alert as storm gives region a summer drenching
Power lines were torn down, trees blown over and drain covers pushed out by surging water as severe storms battered the Westcountry.
The region was put on flood alert yesterday as high winds, heavy rain and spring tides threatened sea defences.
Forecasters predicted a "miserable" end to the week, with winds gusting up to 80mph in some places pounding headlands, cliffs and harbours.
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The Met Office issued an amber warning for Devon and Cornwall yesterday, with Somerset and Dorset on yellow alert until 9pm tonight.
Officials at the Environment Agency put the north and south coast on flood alert and kept a keen eye on river levels throughout the day.
Met Office forecaster Charlie Powell said: "The wind will still be quite gusty until the latter part of Friday and it is going to be very wet and windy.
"The low pressure will gradually move northwards and by the time we get to Saturday the whole country will see a much drier spell.
"Saturday will be the pick of the coming days, but by the evening another spell of unsettled weather will continue until next week."
Parts of the region received a drenching yesterday afternoon with up to 30mm (1.2in) of rain set to fall by lunchtime today.
Devon saw more than 18mm (¾in) in six hours in Dunkeswell, and around 12mm (½in) fell in Exeter and Okehampton.
In Cornwall, residents were ordered to remain indoors after gusts tore down power cables at Lanner, near Redruth.
In Boscastle, high-voltage lines fell, leaving exposed live cables dangling just a foot from the ground and forcing the main road to be closed.
Trees fell and blocked the road along the Ladock to Grampound road and in Beaworthy, in Devon.
In Paignton, fire fighters shut off the electric supply to a house after it was flooded.
Further along the coast, in Sidmouth, a manhole cover was raised on Woolbrook Road and drainage water flooded the carriageway.
The Environment Agency said the biggest risk was heavy winds pushing high spring tides over defences and flooding streets.
Spokesman Paul Gainey said officials were keeping a "watching brief" but warned there could be a real problem "if the wind picks up".
A yachtsman attempting to sail to the Azores was rescued by the Royal Navy's Cornwall-based Search and Rescue squadron at Culdrose.
Peter Evans, 54, was winched from the sea by the helicopter crew after abandoning his yacht, which had been tipped over twice by the force of the sea.
He said: "I didn't get any sleep at all last night, the sea was so rough. I've never seen anything like it."