HIGH winds of up to 60mph smashed the Fylde coast causing havoc and forced the hugely anticipated Blackpool stage of the Tour of Britain to be called off.
The tail end of Hurricane Katia headed in from across the Atlantic and made its presence felt in the UK.
Tour of Britain race director Mick Bennett said there had been no option but to cancel the event after a 5km stretch along Blackpool Promenade was deemed unsafe.
Mr Bennett said: “In my 30 years of organising cycling events I’ve never once had to cancel a stage before it even started, so this is not a decision that has been taken lightly.
“The safety of competitors, officials, staff and of course spectators is of more importance than the spectacle of the event. We cannot, and will not take the slightest risk when it comes to safety, hence today’s decision.
“I would like to apologise to the many spectators who have missed out on the opportunity to see The Tour of Britain.”
Last night, highways chiefs closed Princes Promenade at Anchorsholme amid fears of waves crashing onto the route.
Elsewhere, Blackpool Police diverted pedestrians on Talbot Square yesterday afternoon while work was carried out to secure a set of traffic lights which was blowing precariously and a shelter was ripped in two at Crazee Critterz animal sanctuary on Faraday Way, Bispham.
Hayley Russell, who founded the sanctuary with Gail Lamb this year, said: “It was quite a shock when I saw our huge shelter broken in two and thrown across the fields. A section of fencing around the paddock was damaged and the roof was in a pond.
“It is sad because it took us a long time to build the shelter and we were really looking forward to moving a couple of the horses from our first shelter into it.
“We have six at the moment but it is cramped – fortunately the shelter hadn’t been quite ready for the horses to be moved so no animals were injured.
“But it means we have to wait longer to house more horses.”
Blackpool’s new Tower Eye attraction also fell victim to yesterday’s high winds – the fourth time gusts have closed it since the attraction opened on September 1.
A spokeswoman for Merlin Entertainments said: “As the health and safety of our visitors is paramount we must close the lifts once wind speeds exceed 40mph. This has been the case since The Tower opened in 1894.”
The Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach was unable to operate yesterday and double decker trams were halted, leaving only the single deckers running.
The Met Office warned waves could crash over the top sea defences along the west coast around the Blackpool area.
Helen Chivers, from the Met Office, said: “Blackpool witnessed strong winds from 8am when the wind speed measured at Blackpool Airport was 57mph. Winds stayed between 50 and 60mph all day and we expect them to ease off to around 30 to 40mph and drop further on Wednesday.”
n Anyone able to donate building material to Crazee Critterz to re-build the shelter should contact Hayley on 07907467861.