It was just over two weeks ago when doing our research into upcoming events that something unusual began to appear on the horizon. A fairly rare event for recent times it was an Easterly wind with speeds of over 40 mph. We watched as this continued to become a reality and the weather forecasters began using the term “Beast from the East”.
Our first taste of the Easterlies was Sunday 25th February 2018 when we saw some very large waves hitting the wall for a few hours around High Tide. We decided to share this on Facebook Live and we were rewarded with record numbers of viewers and visitors to the Dawlish Beach Website.
We were quite surprised that the waves weren’t a little larger as the wind speed and direction suggested we were in for a battering. Little did we realise what was to come!
Very quickly we were hearing warnings about later in the week with, unbelievably for Dawlish and most of Devon, the forecast of snow! Well we’d had the odd flurry over the years but this is South Devon, warm, tropical, full of salt in the air and general paradise.
The wind and the waves continued to increase as the temperature dropped. Could this be right? Wednesday night saw our first serious snow shower. It came thick and fast but only really stayed around for ten minutes. Well that wasn’t too much to deal with!
Thursday morning and suddenly the Amber Warning from the Met Office was upgraded to Red and between 12 & 12.30 we went from bitterly cold and a little bit of snow around the edges to full on whiteout with 70mph Easterly winds being fed moisture from Storm Emma from Portugal.
Video of Snow Landing on Quad Cameras
By the time we hit Thursday night the height of water had increased as spring tides began to take effect. The combination of huge waves over snow covered tracks was new to our cameras and we were again joined by record numbers of people wanting to view this phenomenom.
Could it really get any worse? Well yes on Friday morning with much of the South-West under a blanket of snow and Ice, mother nature decided to throw even more water into the tide. Most of the Country were already experiencing gridlock and blocked railway lines and the last train to pass us went towards London at around 6.30am. Network Rail were then forced into closing the wall as some railings near Kennaway Tunnel had been washed onto the tracks, Dawlish Station resembled the Great Western Canal and flooded lines became the order of the morning.
Marine Parade sat in 50cm of water and that was going to be that until the tide retreated far enough to allow safety inspections.
The team from Network Rail set about clearing the debris and carried out a safety inspection and the line was re-opened at 3.30am. By 7.30am it was closed again for a few hours as the High tide and wind threw everything at the wall. At this point i’d like to state that our iconic piece of British engineering stood up to Mother nature in much the same way as it has for 180 years! There were no breaches or disasters and the closed time was considerably less disruptive than for most of the British Railway Network. By lunchtime a rail service was reinstated and ran using the Bi-directional inner upline for all traffic.
By Saturday night things were relatively calm once again and although we did have some great footage of waves reaching skywards, the intensity and frequency had subsided. We even had a little sunshine.