Blackpool’s famous Golden Mile was turned into a river of flood water and foam after ferocious 70mph winds left a trail of destruction.
Gales and a seasonal high tide saw huge waves crashing over the resort’s £100m sea defences as police were forced to close the Promenade for most of yesterday.
Seafront hotels were within inches of being besieged by the flood waters, homes were left damaged and without power, tram services were axed and shops had to close during a day of chaos.
Guy Whalley, owner of the Craig-y-Don hotel on the Prom, said: “The water came within inches of coming into our restaurant. It was a very close shave. It was quite spectacular.”
Deborah Harman, who runs the Colris hotel, said: “It was very frightening and we were completely in darkness yesterday evening because the street lights were out.
“The water did start to come in our hotel and we didn’t have any sandbags.”
Jeanette Davies, of the Blenheim Mount, said: “It was like a river coming down.
“The water came up to the second step because we left our hotel built up for exactly that reason.
“The bins were bobbing around the road and everything.”
Mark Yates, of Brooks Collectables, on Waterloo Road, took to Twitter to share pictures of water on his shop floor.
He said: “I think I got off lightly.”
The message was in response to a picture posted by a neighbouring store, Notarianni’s ice cream parlour, showing the high water outside.
Tram services were suspended most of the day with services between North Shore and Fleetwood only resuming after 5pm.
Train services were affected while flights at Blackpool International Airport were delayed or diverted.
Fleetwood Freeport Shopping Centre also closed between 11am and 3pm due to high winds making the site unsafe and vehicles were also left stranded in the port on Princes Way.
Almost 800 homes were left without power for more than four hours in Over Wyre while bus services to flooded Knott End were suspended.
Electricity North West said the power fault was reported at 11.30am which was fixed by 3.45pm.
A spokesman for the company said: “Some 774 customers have been affected by the fault, which was due to the weather. High winds are affecting overhead power lines.”
Part of a house’s gable end was destroyed in high winds on Durham Road, forcing police to cordon the area off.
One driver told how he had a lucky escape after part of the resort’s Illuminations came crashing down on to his car.
Paul Mappley, 47, Carnforth Avenue, Bispham, was driving past the Metropole building at 8.30am on his way to work when his car was struck by the lights, leaving a large dint in his Citroen C3 Picasso.
He said: “There was debris and wheelie bins blowing everywhere along the Prom. Then all of a sudden, a big stream of lights came crashing down.
“I felt a cable whip the side of my car about a minute earlier because there were cables dangling all over the place. The cable must have been 20 metres long and about as thick as a finger.”
Another car was also said to have been hit by the falling lights.
Mr Mappley said: “The other guy must have got it worse than me, it was all wrapped around his wing mirrors.”
Other witnesses described chaos as the deluge hit. Glenn Gayton, 55, Highfield Road, said: “I was out at five going to work and I couldn’t even walk down Highfield Road because of the wind blowing me back.
“It’s bad for older people to get about. It’s a nightmare.”
Emma Whittle, 24, of Osbourne Road, was sheltering in a tram stop.
She said: “It’s very windy. I lost my hat walking down here. I was just taking a video of the sea spray, I’ve never seen it come all the way up and cross the road before.”
Lawrence Hancock, 26, who works on Lytham Road, said: “I used to live in Cleveleys on the promenade there and I’ve seen pretty bad weather but this is pretty manic.”
Three fire engines also tackled a blaze on Hill Cross Road, off Squires Gate Lane, when flames from a bonfire spread to a nearby garage due to the high winds.
No-one was hurt.
As the winds subsided last night there were fresh weather warnings across the Fylde coast – this time for ice.
Colder winds were forecast overnight, causing the temperature to drop, and today was expected to be generally drier.
The weather warning was due to be lifted at noon today, with temperatures set to rise over the weekend.