Fylde coast battered by strong winds

Fire crews remove bricks from a property in Talbot Road.
Fire crews remove bricks from a property in Talbot Road.
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Winds of more than 70mph battered the Fylde coast closing roads and attractions and damaging buildings.

A week of strong gales reached a climax on Thursday night, with experts predicting more heavy weather – including snow – is on the way.

Violent gusts saw homeowners and businesses battening down the hatches.

And part of Talbot Road in Blackpool town centre was sealed off amid fears the front of the Cancer Research shop could collapse after winds ripped out Christmas decorations fastened to the property, taking bricks with them.

Blackpool Council’s Illuminations department swiftly removed the lights before fire officers took over.

Force incident manager Tim Murrell said decisive action was talked for fear masonry would crash on to the pavement below.

He added: “They had an arrangement where there were decorations going across the road to another building.

“But the high winds have pulled on it and the bracket attached to the wall has pulled forwards, bringing the bricks on the outer skin of the building with it.

“With the winds expected to pick up even more, we decided to work in the lull to remove the bricks.”

Crowds watched on as the crew used an aerial ladder platform to make the building safe.

A cordon was put up to make sure pedestrians remained clear of the area.

Shopper Carl Parks, from Charles Court, Layton, said: “It’s amazing they’re having to pull stuff down, and there’s a big crack.”

Elsewhere, trees were brought down and road signs blown from lampposts.

Carr End Lane in Stalmine was closed at 12.20 pm after a tree was blown cross the road blocking traffic in both directions.

Telephone wires were torn down on Bloomfield Road, signs and cones from roadworks at Junction Four of the M55 were blown across the carriageway, while signs were pulled from lampposts on Rossall Lane in Fleetwood.

Blackpool FC’s training ground did not escape as part of the roof of manager Ian Holloway’s office was torn off by the gales.

He said: “The whole place has been battered.

“The lights are out in my office. You might say that’s already happened to the bloke in there. Part of the roof has gone as well. We had to do the press conference in our boot cupboard.”

The storms meant Tower operators Merlin had to close the top of the world famous attraction.

This meant the resident Santa Claus was left stranded at the bottom – 500ft from his Tower-top grotto. He is now greeting children on the ground floor.

The Sea Life Centre, on the Promenade, remained open but its doors were broken by the force of the gales, while a large banner has blown off Madame Tussauds, also on the Prom.

A Merlin spokesman said: “There’s quite a bit of damage.”

DIY stores, like many shops in Blackpool, were quiet – as shoppers chose to stay indoors rather than brave the elements.

But they can expect a boost in trade as people today look to replace broken fences and gates.

Richard Shaw, manager of the B and Q store at Whitehills, Blackpool, said: “We expect to be busy, we’ve had a few of our fences in the back yard that we keep in storage that have gone flying.

“The weather has been putting people off coming out, but once it calms down people will assess what damage there is and doing repairs.”

Firefighters were called out to assist with two weather related problems in Fleetwood.

At lunchtime, they attended an address of Macbeth Road after the gable end of a house had collapsed.

A building inspector was called to assess the property.

Later, they were called to a disused building on Venture Road to secure loose galvanised sheeting.

Officers were also called out to secure an awning which had ripped off a building on Blackpool Promenade, close to the Cenotaph, at just after 9pm yesterday.

The Met Office today gave hope of a break in the weather.

A spokesman told The Gazette: “We expect the strong winds to remain until Friday after which they should die down and be replaced by showers and the possibility of snow on higher ground.

“Next week we expect to see the strong winds return.”

Police told people in Scotland not to travel as severe winds of up to 165mph battered the country, leaving thousands in Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway without power.