VIDEO: Disruption as fierce storm lashes East Sussex

High winds and heavy rain battered East Sussex on Monday, bringing down trees and knocking out power supplies.

The Met Office released an amber warning for rain across the county as winds reaching speeds of 70mph swept through, bringing down power cables and closing roads.



The Met Office said 38.6mm of rain fell in East Sussex between 6pm on Monday and 7am on Christmas Eve - the third highest rainfall in the country with the most falling in Greater London at 53.6mm.

UK Power Networks said 8,770 of its customers had been left without power.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said it attended 230 weather-related calls and 120 incidents were attended by crews. The majority of calls included making areas safe after strong winds brought down trees, signs and roofs.

Crews rescued two people in Keld Avenue, Uckfield, after a tree landed on their car, trapping them inside.

Fire crews said the people were released and there were no injuries.

Holy Cross School in Uckfield was damaged by overnight gales and staff and volunteers worked during Tuesday morning to make it safe.

On the roads, Battle Road in Heathfield was closed due to fallen electricity cables.

The A265 was blocked by fallen trees near the junction with Meres Lane. And at one point the Tunbridge Wells to Mark Cross section of the road was blocked by floods and strewn with abandoned vehicles.

A driver heading east along the A272 from Haywards Heath to Heathfield reported 12 fallen trees at various points on the route - one partially blocked the B2102 between Halland and Heathfield and that road was heavily flooded at Blackboys.

The Burwash to Stonegate road was also blocked.

A warning was issued that the River Uck had risen to just below the level of the bridge and Hempstead Meadow was completely flooded.

Ashdown Forest conservators warned many trees had fallen and they worked throughout the morning clearing roads and tracks. They warned people to avoid Newbridge Splash where a car was trapped by floodwater.

Crews said sections of a garage canopy had to be removed at Texaco on the South Coast Road, Peacehaven, and large sheeting was removed from a building on Old Ghyll Road, Heathfield.

Crews also attended St Johns Road in Seaford when a pipe was spotted swinging four storeys high on a building. The pipe was removed by crews and the area made safe.

The A259 at East Dean Road in East Dean was closed because of a fallen tree.

Flood warnings were issued on Tuesday morning for areas close to the River Uck in Buxted, particularly between Parsonage Wood and the High Street and areas close to the River Medway near Withyham.

On the trains, services were delayed or cancelled, as the network battled to remove trees from the line.

There were no trains running on the main Hastings to London line (via Etchingham and Stonegate) during Tuesday morning.

Buses between Brighton and Newhaven were diverted inland along the A27 and A26 due to the high winds.

Traffic was delayed in Lewes High Street on Christmas Eve as the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service made the roof of Lewes Crown Court safe.

A storm tank collapsed at Southern Water’s pumping station in Ham Lane, Lewes.

A spokesman said on Monday: “The tank contained wastewater which was heavily diluted with rainwater.

“We have a team on site who have diverted flows away from the tank and arranged tankers to clear up.”

Flood barriers were put up in Lewes on Tuesday morning as a precaution against the high tide.

Weather expert Ian Michaelwaite said: “The last 24 hours packed a real punch, with gusts of more than 70mph recorded on the Sussex coast and locally more than 60mph across the district.

“One of the reasons why we have seen so much disruption from the wind is that the strongest gusts came from a southerly direction, where we would normally see a westerly wind.

“Trees usually grow to brace against a westerly wind. With the saturated ground not helping, the sudden powerful gusts have been able to take whole trees down, as well as cause damage to branches.

“This tree damage and debris has also added to the flooding issues as drains and gullies quickly get blocked, allowing water to collect and flood in the heavy rain. Overnight we also had a series of squall lines, which can form leading a cold front, and these pack a real punch with sudden and intense winds, torrential rain, even hail and thunder.

“We were on the receiving end of a slow moving squall in the early hours [of Tuesday], which dumped a lot of rain and it was around this time that many people experienced the most damaging gusts of wind too.”

A major clean-up operation was launched by East Sussex County Council in the wake of the storm.

In the space of 12 hours the council’s highways team cleared more than 200 fallen trees and dealt with around 50 flooded roads. It worked with tree surgeons to ensure as many roads as possible remain open and safe for motorists.More bad weather is forecast for Friday (December 27).