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Storm sweeps in as South West is swamped by heavy rain

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: June 15, 2012

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Heavy rain and high winds began to sweep across the Westcountry last night as the eye of a giant Atlantic storm – billed as a once-in-50-years event – struck land.

Gusting winds of up to force eight and nine were being reported off the coast of west Cornwall yesterday as experts claimed the June weather was the worst since records began.

The Met Office issued yet another weather warning for heavy rain with blustery winds gusting up to 60mph, while the Weather Channel described the storm as a "once-in-50-years event", predicting there would be a 50 per cent possibility of extreme downpours with over 80mm of rain in 12 hours in some parts.

The Environment Agency has also repeated its warning to people in Devon, Cornwall, and west Somerset to remain vigilant, particularly tourists staying in tents and caravans.

The latest in a succession of dire forecasts comes after parts of the UK saw severe flooding, and was greeted with frustration by parts of the tourist industry, some of whom accused forecasters of "talking down the weather" and damaging trade.

But as satellite images showing the sheer scale of the monster low pressure system emerged, many isolated campsites were told to prepare for the worst. Frank Saunders, chief forecaster at the Met Office, hoped there would be no repeat of the damage caused, particularly in Wales, a week ago.

He said: "The unsettled theme we have seen so far this month is set to continue with more wet and windy weather to come, although we are not expecting it to be as severe as the weather last weekend."

However, as the storm began to pound the region, coastguards in Cornwall were called out to rescue a yachtsman whose sail was torn free from rigging ten miles off the coast of Newlyn.

RNLI spokesman for the Penleee lifeboat, Mike Sagar Fenton, estimated the gusts to be force eight or nine.

He said conditions were "quite extreme" and "as rough as I have seen it this year".

The region has so far escaped major damage, prompting some campsite owners to accuse forecasters of becoming "increasingly alarmist" and threatening to "dampen the spirits" of potential visitors.

Claire Jeavons of Beverely Park, in Paignton, believes the Met Office is overcompensating after being criticised for its wildly inaccurate predictions of a barbecue summer two years ago. Nevertheless the Exeter-based organisation was forecasting as much as 40mm (1.6 inches) of rain to fall overnight with the potential for up to 60mm (2.4 inches) across upland parts, such as Exmoor and Dartmoor.

Officials were last night checking flood defences, water levels and clearing blockages.

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