Region buffeted by North Sea

Norfolk got its feet wet on Tuesday - but appeared to have got away without any widespread serious damage as high tides and strong northerly winds combined to remind coastal communities of the power of the North Sea.

The northerly gales blew, the high spring tides crashed in and the region was buffeted by the North Sea.

There was some damage caused in the storms, especially to boats, but apart from this the events of the last 48 hours have done little more than produce an excellent source of conversation in the pubs and supermarket queues around the county.

However they have served as a timely reminder of the power of the waters which surround us - and the type of flooding events, such as 1996 and 1953, which look set to become more common thanks to climate change and global warming.

The high winds look set to continue through the night and Wednesday morning, but will gradually die down into the afternoon, weather experts said.

At Blakeney the seawater came well over the quay level with the morning tide, which peaked at around 7am. Once the tide has receded there was plenty of evidence of what had gone before thanks to a large amount of reed washed up on the coast road through the village.

There was some damage to boats along this part of the coast, including at Morston Quay.

Cromer Pier had to be closed for a short time on Tuesday morning because of some minor damage, probably caused by the high seas.

Peter Battrick, spokesman for North Norfolk District Council, said: "An access hatch in the decking which provides entry to the underside of the pier had become loose.

"It was secured quite quickly and the pier reopened after a short time."

Malcolm Kerby, coordinator of the Coastal Concern Action Group at Happisburgh, where a sea defence rock scheme is currently being laid thanks to cash from the council and villagers, said it was this type of weather which reminded people of the power of the sea and the importance of defences.

"This type of weather is exactly what we have not had in the last two or three winters.

"There is a great sense of relief in the village that this new set of defences is going in, even though they are by no means finished.

"People must now feel totally justified, totally vindicated, that they have been able to make their individual contributions to a scheme which is clearly helping many homeowners, caravan owners and many other people."

Brendan Joyce, director of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, said the weather patterns in the past few days had been well predicted by climate change models. The weather has been of particular interest to those living near Cley and Salthouse because the way the shingle bank sea defences are managed has changed in recent months, with no major bulldozing of the shingle, which will slowly create a lower profile, wider defence. A scheme to increase the speed at which salt water can be piped from the reserve is also relatively new.

"We have seen two things," said Mr Joyce.

"Firstly nature firing a bit of a warning shot across our bows. And secondly, from the point of view of Cley Marshes, we have seen the new shingle bank management and sluices perform as desired."

Bernard Bishop, warden at Cley Marshes, said he had been down on the village beach car park shortly after 6am.

"The water overtopped into the car park and a few other places.

"This is the first real test of the new management of the shingle bank. It seems to have worked rather well. We should be able to get rid of the water much more quickly.

"I don't want to see the sea coming over the bank, but if it does we are now in the position to deal with the result in less time."

In west Norfolk some roads were closed between around 4pm and 10pm, a few hours either side of the evening high tide.

Access to traffic on the South Quay in King's Lynn was prevented when the quayside flood gates were closed.

In some locations there was little to report, although it was clear people were concerned about water levels.

David Neve, chairman of Winterton Parish Council, said: "I was down by the cafe on the cliff at high tide in the morning and it passed without incident.

"It could be a problem if it comes over our defences and hits the base of the cliff near the cafe."

Coastguards said they had had minimal involvement in the situation because there had been no major emergencies to respond to.

A spokesman for UEA based weather bureau WeatherQuest said: "It will remain very windy through the night, with things looking to settle down into Wednesday afternoon."

A number of Environment Agency flood warnings and flood watches remain in place across the region.

The direction of the wind will alter slightly from north westerly through to north easterly.