MUCH of the south coast was battered by gale-force winds and heavy rainfall today.
PEOPLE across the region were today picking up the pieces after gale force winds and heavy rain battered the south coast.
Trees were uprooted, roofs collapsed and signs were damaged as winds averaging 60mph ripped through Portsmouth and the surrounding area.
At the height of the storm, gusts of 82mph were recorded by the Met Office between 12pm and 1pm.
In Southsea, neighbours reported seeing a ‘mini tornado’ rip tiles from roofs.
John Munday, 72, of Fordingbridge Road, Southsea, had the back window of his car smashed by falling debris, and his bonnet was pitted with holes.
‘All the stones and tarmac from some of the nieghbours’s roofs was flying around,’ he said.
‘The wind was going round in circles and everything was caught up in it – it was like a tornado.
‘Lots of tiles were taken off people’s roofs and about six cars were done in. A chimney went through the back window of my neighbour’s car.
‘I’ve never seen anything like it. It was a fair old to-do.’
Firefighters were called to the street just after midday and spent over an hour fixing tarpaulin to some of the roofs to stop any more debris falling off.
The Met Office said the freak conditions were caused by a dramatic and sudden change in the atmosphere.
Alison Richards, from the Met Office, said: ‘What was experienced in Southsea was a classic, violent change in atmospheric conditions.
‘The temperature dropped from 12C to 8C, there was gusts of up to 82mph and heavy rain at the same time, all this can give the impression of a hurricane.
‘It was caused by the front moving through which made the wind change direction.
‘As strong gusty winds change direction, it can create swirls and look like the wind is spinning, but it’s not.’
In Havant, three cars were crushed when branches were blown down in Wakeford Way.
Hampshire County Council’s member for environment and transport Cllr Mel Kendal said: ‘A large tree broke away and fell on three cars.
‘The remaining part of the tree was identified as being at risk of falling and, as a precaution, the police cordoned off part of the highway so that the arboricuture team could carry out further investigation and take action to make it safe.’
Roads were closed while the work was done.
The extreme weather started early this morning as torrential rain and high winds caused disruption to the roads, rail and sea.
Portsmouth City Council said its helpdesk received 15 calls relating to trees falling, 10 to do with damage to fence panels and 11 for structures becoming dangerous.
This included a report of a tree falling in New Road, near Kingston Cemetery, Buckland.
Jon Saxty, 37, an engineer, of South Road, Buckland, had seen the damage first hand.
He said: ‘I was coming back home after getting a McDonald’s for breakfast and saw this tree had fallen down.
‘I was quite fearful more trees would fall so I got back to my house pretty quickly.
‘It’s bizarre as Monday was so clear and this morning we woke up to gales.’
The A272 near West Meon was blocked due to several fallen trees and the A27 near Cams Hill was also partially blocked.
Marcin Jedryciak, 28, a porter, of Knox Road, Stamshaw, said: ‘I saw very strong winds and decided to go to Southsea seafront to take pictures.
‘As I was going I saw signs had been blown away and some trees. I have lived here for six years and this is one of the worst storms I have seen.’
Trees also fell in Nutbourne Road, Farlington, and at the junction of West Lane and Havant Road, in Hayling Island. Motorists and commuters faced delays on what was the first day back to work and school for many after the Christmas break.
Hovertravel suspended its service between Southsea and Ryde at 5.40am because of the treacherous conditions.
It was fully restored just before 1.30pm.
Southern Railway said train travel was disrupted because of trees being blown onto tracks and flooding from heavy rainfall.
Late night services between London and Portsmouth were cancelled after a tree fell on the line.
Trees had also fallen on the Portchester to Southampton route, which meant trains were being diverted to Portsmouth Harbour.
The route between Havant and Southampton was blocked in both directions.
Some routes had delays of up to 50 minutes.
Meanwhile, firefighters from Southsea and Cosham fire stations were called to the Debenhams store in Commercial Road, Portsmouth, after part of its sign was falling down.
Two crews from Southsea – including the aerial ladder platform – were called to the rear of the store at 10am.
Crew manager Chris Norgate said: ‘We were called to the store as the sign, which overlooks the car park in Surrey Street.
‘The sign was over three panels and two of them had come off because of the wind. We were called to get the third one down safely, which we did.’
The crew was then called to Squirrels antiques dealers in Kingston Road, Portsmouth, after a 15ft hole appeared in the roof of the flat above the store.
Firefighters fitted plastic sheets over the roof.
The chimney of a flat was damaged in High Street, and there was structural damage to a flat in Marine Parade, both in Lee-on-the-Solent.
And customers visiting the Tesco store in Northarbour were forced to use a side entrance after glass in the main entrance popped out in the morning.
Tesco engineers were working to fix the panels.