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News / Sandsayre counts cost of storm surge

Waves crash in causing flooding and extensive damage at Leebitton, Sandwick, on Saturday. Pic. Garry Sandison

A SMALL Shetland community is preparing to count the cost of the highest floods in living memory that peaked at noon on Saturday.

The sea rose three feet above the road at Leebitton, Sandwick, while 100 feet of dry stone wall surrounding Sand Lodge has been knocked down and its tennis court and grounds flooded.

Sandsayre appears to have been the area in Shetland worst affected by the strong easterly winds that combined with a high tide to raise the water level to unprecedented levels at the pier.

The wall of one boat shed has been badly damaged by rocks flung by large waves, while two boats, a Ness yoal and a Shetland model, were lifted with their fastening stones across the beach and into a ditch.

At Sumburgh airport conditions were not as severe, with flights only slightly delayed, while in Lerwick the shore side Shetland museum was more or less unaffected.

However coastal roads were blocked on the south mainland’s eastern side by shingle and seaweed lifted by the high seas.

Sandwick man Davy Johnson said it was the worst flooding the area had seen in his 67 years.

“I watched as a huge wave washed the two boats across the beach. The neighbours gathered and we waded in and pulled the boats into the shelter of the sheds,” he said.

“The whole side of the green store has been smashed in by heavy stones and the tarmac driveway has been broken up and slabs of tarmac are on the beach.”

Johnson said he thought the recently renovated Sandsayre pier will have survived the surge, which was caused by the strong winds combining with a high tide.

“The wind was in a critical direction coming just north of the natural shelter of Mousa with a spring tide. It was the highest I have seen the sea come in my time,” he said.

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His wife Beth said the floods could only be compared to the deluge in 2003 when heavy rainfall caused a major landslide and flooding in the village.

“The laird’s dyke has been knocked away and the road is absolutely underwater at Leebitton,” she said. “You would have to wade through it if you wanted to rescue anything.”

Garry Sandison, who runs the Mousa boat from the pier during the summer, said the water over the road was three to four feet deep and three feet of gravel had piled up against the boat shed that houses the new heritage centre, so they could not get in to check for damage.

Sumburgh airport manager Nigel Flaws said they had been fortunate the wind was blowing directly up the runway, so it was not causing flight delays. “Everything so far has operated normally,” he said.

The road at Boddam, just north of the airport, was blocked by shingle and seaweed washed up from the sea.

Cathy Hallett at the Shetland Museum and Archives said the waterfront building and its recently opened neighbour Mareel were unaffected, the sea not rising high enough to reach the buildings.

“It wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought it would be and nowhere near as bad as it was two years ago,” she said.

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