A month’s worth of rain fell in just seven hours, destroying bridges, causing travel chaos and leaving a treasured tea room on the brink of collapse.
Residents woke on Saturday to discover heavy rain battering parts of the north-east, with north Aberdeenshire bearing the brunt.
The deluge destroyed or swept away six bridges and police were called in to shut sections of the A90 between Fraserburgh and Peterhead after they became dangerous or impassable.
According to the Met Office, 66mm of rain – the average amount for a whole month – fell in north Aberdeenshire between 5am and 1pm on Saturday as a yellow ‘be alert’ weather warning was in place.
Showers also forced the evacuation of Eden Watermill tea room near Turriff after a tree toppled and vehicles had to be moved out of the car park when it became unsafe.
Owner Elaine Bunce said: “The foundations are exposed. There is a risk of it collapsing and I can’t allow people inside.
“We’ll have to get a structural engineer out. We may have to close down permanently.”
Mrs Bunce described the dramatic moment part of a bank was swept into a river next to the watermill.
“I was fortunate to be standing in the right place and not fall in. We asked our guests to move their cars to a different part of the car park, then evacuated altogether as it became unsafe.
“People who have lived in the area all their lives said they have never seen it as bad as it was on Saturday.”
She also said the building would have collapsed had it not been for “divine intervention” causing a tree to fall in a different direction and block the water.
The sheer scale of the downpour was illustrated at Turriff United’s The Haughs ground, where a referee judged the pitch playable at 11am – only for it to resemble a lake just an hour later.
After the club’s Highland League match against Buckie Thistle was postponed, United chairman George Manson said scores of volunteers rolled up their sleeves to join the clean-up operation yesterday.
He said: “We had some really bad flooding in 2016 and made changes that protected us a bit more, but Saturday was still bad.
“It was playable at 11am but then just turned into a lake. We’ve got water in the changing rooms but it’s all concrete flooring so we don’t anticipate any permanent damage. The pace of the downpour did take us all by surprise though.”
Fraserburgh’s Highland Game with Huntly was also postponed due to a flooded pitch.
Aden Country Park was to hold a heritage and tractor day yesterday but called it off.
In a statement, a park spokesman said: “Unfortunately, due to the amount of rain in the past 24 hours, the park is extremely wet, dubby and some areas are flooded.
“We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
Aberdeenshire Council said the six bridges swept away or damaged were between Millcroft and Plaidy, at Mill of Balmaud, at South Mains near Craigston Castle, at North Litterty near Craigston Castle, at Bridge of Gorrachie and at Bridge of Fortrie.
Drivers shared photographs on social media of hazardous roads in Banff, Turiff and Fraserburgh, warning friends and family to avoid them.
Sebastian Rennie took a picture of road conditions between Fraserburgh and Rosehearty and said: “It’s severely flooded! From experience right now I wouldn’t even chance it!”
Stagecoach had to divert buses running between Fraserburgh and Gardenstown and the number 35 had to miss out Portknockie to Findochty due to road closures.
All services were back to normal by yesterday afternoon.
There was severe flooding in Crovie, which caused rainwater to cascade down a hillside.
Elsewhere, residents reported the sight of dead sheep being swept along the River Don at Donside Village.
Aberdeenshire Council’s head of roads Philip McKay described Saturday’s conditions as “atrocious” and urged drivers not to ignore roadside warning signs.
He said: “Many bridges in the area have been badly damaged and a number of smaller bridges on unclassified roads have been swept away entirely. It is vitally important that ‘roads closed’ signs are respected as, although flood water levels may have fallen, the road may still be unsafe to pass.”
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Mr McKay added: “Bridges engineers were out since the early hours on Sunday carrying out inspections which may reveal further damage to some of our bridges.
“While it looks like the worst of the weather has passed and the immediate clear-up has begun, repairs to affected bridges will be a longer-term project.”
The council’s chief executive Jim Savege said: “My thoughts are with all communities affected by the heavy rain and flooding in north Aberdeenshire yesterday. Thanks to everyone who has been out helping deal with the damage – a big team effort.”
Aberdeenshire Council told parents Macduff Primary School is partially closed today.
In a message to parents, the council said: “Due to the impact of flooding our nursery and Doodlebugs will not be open.”