Gale force easterly winds have battered the Lincolnshire coastline over recent days, whipping up sand, scattering it inland and wreaking havoc on North Sea communities.
Thick sandy deposits, drifting several feet deep in places, have made promenades virtually impassable as the encroaching beach turned green gardens golden in coastal towns and villages.
Chapel Point couple Ben Stephenson and Laura-Marie Hemsworth discovered on Sunday that their beach-adjoining garden wall had collapsed under the voluminous sand, which has since crept closer to the property itself.
“It had crumbled in the middle and now all the sand is coming through, which we’re going to have to clear by hand because we can’t get any machines in,” said Ben.
The 28-year-old stonemason says the sand has worsened during their four years at the property, which he attributes to the ongoing beach nourishment sea defence programme carried out by the Environment Agency.
“I do understand that it needs to be done but it’s pumping that fine sand out to sea, combined with the winds that we’ve experienced that has caused the problem - it seems to me like we are asking for trouble and perhaps it’s time we looked for something different,” explained Ben.
Nearby beach huts have also been partially submerged by the rising sand and pathways between Skegness and Ingoldmells, which were only recently cleared by coastal access campaigners, are as bad as they’ve ever been,
Project leader Paul Marshall estimates that at least 50 tonnes of sand had been removed last week, only for it to come back worse than ever.
Fearing the cleared sand was likely to return if winds picked up, Paul had asked either East Lindsey District Council or the Environment Agency to spread it away from the footpath, but says each agency deferred responsibility to the other.
With windows, cars and lawns all covered in the sand, he has echoed Ben’s comments and suggested an alternative approach to flood defence may be required.
“Beach nourishment may be the most economic method but it’s not necessarily the best,” he said.
The Lincshore beach nourishment programme last year saw more than 512,000 cubic metres of sand pumped offshore along a 20 kilometre stretch of beach, as part of a £30 million annual spend on protecting coastal communities.
Without the project, its leaders say tens of thousands of homes would be at severe risk of flooding and the sand would be washed away, leaving just a clay base.
The Environment Agency has since announced that a coordinated multi-agency task force will work to clear the large quantities of sand blown ashore along the East Lindsey coastline.
In partnership with ELDC and Lincolnshire County Council, the Environment Agency will work to minimise the amount of sand affecting roads, promenades, businesses and properties, prioritising sea walls and access routes.
LCC’s assistant director of environment planning and customer services, Steve Willis, said: “Our priority is to keep the roads clear from sand, especially with the bank holiday weekend approaching.
“We advise motorists to take extra care when driving on coastal roads as the sand can cause them to become slippery.”
The Environment Agency’s area operations manager Leigh Edlin has advised residents to delay clearing sands from their properties until the high winds, expected to last until the end of the week, diminish.
Skegness Met observer Brian Porter recorded gale force eight easterly winds on Sunday, reaching speeds of up to 37 miles per hour, with further high winds on Monday.
Temperatures have also remained bitterly cold with three degrees centigrade the warmest Brian has recorded all month, compared to last year’s March readings which reached double figures every day but one.
“There’s a saying,‘March comes like a lion and leaves like a lamb’ meaning the weather usually starts dreadful and improves towards the end, but we’ve had it the other way round if anything”, said Brian.