DORSET was bludgeoned by winds topping 59 miles an hour yesterday.
As trees toppled and roads closed, the county’s police force urged motorists to stay inside for two hours during the afternoon for their own safety.
Many faced traffic chaos after the storm peaked during the early afternoon – a huge tree that toppled onto the Dorset Way closed the road westbound for around four hours.
See all our weather stories and pictures of the storm damage at bournemouthecho.co.uk/dorsetweather
Fallen trees also blocked carriageways in Sherborne, Twemlow Avenue in Poole, the A35 at Hinton in Hampshire, Harwood Avenue at the junction with Newlands Road in Bournemouth, and Wentworth Avenue in Boscombe.
In Christchurch, thousands were left without power during the afternoon after a SSE fault.
A spokesperson said 2,400 were affected.
Homes in Christchurch, Fairmile, Hurn and St Catherine’s were affected, while a further 452 customers were also left without power in Somerley, Linwood, Ellingham and Harbridge in Hampshire.
Commuters also faced misery as train services were affected by the gale.
South West Trains services were suspended between Bournemouth and Poole because of electrical supply problems, while trains between Winchester and Eastleigh were also affected by a fallen tree.
Poole Park is expected to reopen today after seven trees fell in the storm.
There was no access for motorists between the mini roundabout in the park and Twemlow Avenue as a result of the problems.
Forecaster Dr Richard Wild, of Bournemouth-based WeatherNet, said: “The highest winds recorded across the county today were 59 miles per hour at Bournemouth Airport and 68mph on the Isle of Portland.
“The highest wind recorded in the country today was 106mph.”
Around 11mm of rain also fell across the county during an afternoon downpour.
The grim weather is set to continue until Sunday, with Met Office yellow warnings for wind and rain in place for the rest of the week.
Dr Wild said potentially thundery showers can be expected today, and the wind may be even stronger.
“Gusts of wind reaching around 65mph aren’t out of the question,” he said.
How the trains are running
SOUTH West Trains said 84 per cent of their trains were running on time but that they were monitoring areas at risk of flood and landslip.
A spokesman for the train operator said they had tree surgeons on stand-by but were planning to run a normal service for the remainder of the week.
However, with further severe weather forecast, the company urged customers to keep checking their website for updates.
Trains stopped running between Brockenhurst and Lymington Pier due to a tree on the line and flooding resulted in 20 minute delays on the Brockenhurt to Bournemouth route.
However, 90 per cent of their network remained open for business.
Monitoring river levels
Neil Farmer, strategic director at Christchurch council, said: “Local councillors and council officers have been working with residents in Conifer Close to keep them informed of possible flooding incidents. Thankfully the levels in the River Stour have reduced significantly in recent days.
“The council is in regular contact with the Environment Agency to monitor river levels so adequate warning can be given to residents if river levels are predicted to rise towards the levels experienced on Christmas Day. Temporary accommodation will be provided for residents by the council if the conditions worsen and further flooding of the properties is predicted.
“The council will liaise with the management company for the flats and with the Environment Agency to explore a flood alleviation scheme that would protect the properties from further flooding.”
Holiday starts early for schools in Fordingbridge
PUPILS of Fordingbridge Infant and Junior Schools have started their half-term holiday early due to flooding.
Just Year 6 pupils will remain in lessons for the rest of the week after staff secured temporary accommodation for them at nearby Burgate.
Senior leaders at the Pennys Lane schools took the decision to close until Monday February 24 after suffering due to the weather conditions all week.
They took advice from Hampshire County Council, Hampshire Fire and Rescue and New Forest District Council.