Weathermen offered little respite today after wild winds, tidal surges and torrential downpours brought havoc across the Portsmouth area.
Forecasters said heavy rain would continue during the morning and although conditions would ease later, high winds are expected again tomorrow with downpours continuing into next week.
The predictions of further weather woe came after roads, homes and businesses were flooded and gusts of up to 50mph tore up fences and even roofs.
But disaster was averted for many as neighbours rallied round to make defences out of sandbags and moved their cars on to higher land.
It was also quite a spectacle – from a safe distance – as crowds gathered on Southsea seafront to watch as huge waves crashed against sea walls and the water curved over monuments and cars.
Jeremy Symmonds, 52, had a lucky escape after a large pile of roof felt – measuring 16m by 16m – came crashing to the ground, grazing the back of his car which had his two eight-year-old twin daughters, Clara and Neeve, in the back.
The dad-of-five, of Meath Close, Hayling Island, said: ‘There was this almighty gust and that’s when the roof came over.
‘It sounded like a bomb going off. It’s totally demolished my garden wall. Thirty seconds sooner and it would have completely crushed my car.’
Debbi Garrod, 50, of Langstone High Street, said her uPVC door was able to keep most of the water at bay. The sea crept 10 inches up her door.
‘When I opened the door the water came rushing in,’ she said.
‘I closed the door quickly and then it was just a little trickle.’
Debbi said the worst part was not being able to relax and constantly being on the lookout for the next flood alert.
But she added: ‘We live in the most beautiful place. We are going to have a little price to pay.
‘The best part is the community getting together.’
The water was so high that sandbags floated down the road.
She added: ‘One of the kids got a canoe and canoed up the high street.’
The water soaked through walls and affected Debbi’s heating and power.
Her neighbour Eithne Anderson, 39, piled sandbags, towels and a flood board around her doorway, but the sea still gushed through and soaked her entrance way.
She said: ‘I have gone through 20 towels. They are being washed and dried ready for this evening.’
In Cosham, an 85-year-old woman was blown over by the wind and hit her head. A crew from Cosham fire station gave her first aid and she was taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital, although she was not thought to be seriously injured.
At Park Gate, near Fareham, the canopy of a BP petrol station became unstable and firefighters were called out to make it safe. And at the Delme roundabout in Fareham a tree was blown down.
In Wallington, near Fareham, roads were flooded, but no houses were inundated.
David Walton, Wallington flood co-ordinator, said: ‘At lunchtime it was really quite dramatic and there was road flooding from Delme Roundabout to the Cob & Pen pub.’
During high tide Queen Street in Emsworth was submerged under several inches of water.
Motorists still took their chances to drive through the lake.
Sally Mahoney, landlady of The Lord Raglan pub, said: ‘We knew the afternoon high tide was going to be bad so we got builders in to put boards and sandbags in the entrances and hoped it would hold, but it didn’t.
‘We’ve had a few of our friends and customers coming in during the day to help us out with the clean up operation.
‘We’re staying open no matter what.’
Staff at the Blue Reef Aquarium in Southsea had one of the best views of the drama.
Jenna MacFarlane, duty manager, said: ‘It was really pretty scary down here today.
‘It’s not the worst I have seen, but the wind was stronger than I have ever seen it before.
‘Lots of people came down to the seafront to see it, although I am not sure they were supposed to.
‘Most people were sensible. These huge waves were reaching over the monument and hitting our cafe windows.
‘They have had a good cleaning from seawater.’
Forecasters predict the gales will return tomorrow night and into Monday, but calmer weather will take over towards the end of next week.