Sandwick folk count the cost of ‘worst floods in memory’

Folk in Sandwick are preparing for a clean-up operation in the wake of damage caused by unprecedented levels of flooding during yesterday morning’s storm.

Sandsayre Pier appears to have been the worst-affected area when the east coast of Shetland was buffeted by surging seas overnight from Friday into Saturday.

Strong easterly winds, with gusts thought to have exceeded 75mph, combined with high tides to raise the water to the highest level Sandwick residents can remember.

The high tide peaked at around midday on Saturday, after which one resident said a lot of shingle and gravel from the top of the beach had been pushed back “nearly like a drift of snow”.

After the water receded, several roads in the South Mainland were partially blocked by debris, including those at Leebitton and Bigton.

Robert Bell of the Sandlodge estate said a “fairly sizeable chunk” of a dry stone wall surrounding his property had been washed away by the water, leaving rubble strewn across the garden.

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The wall of a boat shed next to the Sandsayre pier was also badly damaged by heavy stones crashing into it.

Mr Bell discovered the destruction while out walking his dog on the other side of his house on Saturday morning. “Someone asked ‘have you seen the wall?’ I had a look and there it was.”

“A bit of it came down in the seventies, but certainly nothing on the scale that there was this time,” he said. “A huge section has come down – the water was just incredible.”

The wall forms part of a listed estate, so will “have to be rebuilt somehow”, but Mr Bell is not sure whether it will be covered by insurance.

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Former Mousa ferry boatman Tom Jamieson said the renovated Sandsayre Pier thankfully appears to have survived the storm intact.

He has lived in the area for around 46 years and has seen “a fair bit” of flooding in that time, but this is “definitely the worst” he can recall.

“We’ve never seen the beach moved as much as yun,” Mr Jamieson said. “There was just so much water in here. It was absolutely freak conditions, high tides, wind in a certain direction, huge seas coming up the sound.”

He continued: “It’s a terrible mess, the whole beach has been shifted nearly into the road, some of it. It’s going to take a big clearing up to get everything put back the way it was before. Looking out today [Sunday], it’s just beautiful – the difference from yesterday is incredible.”

Fair Isle weatherman Dave Wheeler said winds had averaged gale force eight to severe gale force nine overnight between Friday and Saturday.

He picked up maximum gusts of around 75mph in Fair Isle shortly after midnight, but said wind speeds battering the east coast of the Shetland Mainland “could well have been higher”.

Mr Wheeler said waves were crashing across the road linking the island’s North Haven and South Haven, littering it with stones and seaweed.

He said the pier’s breakwater was “almost completely hidden” because the tide was so high, but the ferry Good Shepherd and a couple of small motorboats survived unscathed.


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