A MAJOR evacuation was under way this evening as 300 homes in the hamlet of Port Clarence, Stockton, was cleared after the River Tees burst its banks.
Some residents had to be rescued by police officers after the storm surge over spilled into the village which sits under the shadow of the iconic Transporter Bridge.
While some people went to stay with friends and relatives, others were transported by bus to The Billingham Forum and a nearby community centre where they awaited news of when they could return home.
Stockton Borough Council deployed its emergency strategy to cope with the incident and a team of staff and medics were present at the forum offering medical attention and assistance.
Sandra Warburton was bussed to the 'rest centre' with daughter, Natasha Warburton, and one-year-old granddaughter, Rubie Lillie Lamberton, ready for bed in pyjamas and a dressing gown.
She said: "Water was coming through the air vents so we were lifted out by police. Because of where we live it's very difficult to get insurance for flooding.
"There's no point worrying because there's nothing we can do about it.
"It often floods, once we had to paddle down the road in a canoe. We have a car on the drive and when we left the water was up to the door handle. We just want to go home.
"You can only imagine what it's going to look like tomorrow."
Val Cook fled with sons Alan and Danny, leaving her husband at home with their third sons and the family's three dogs which they were told they could not bring.
"I have just finished making over the living room and stairs, a new carpet has just been fitted and now it could all be ruined," she said.
"Police came to the door and told us we had to leave immediately.
"There was no warning so all we have are the clothes we are standing in. I 'be had to borrow a couple of pounds to get us some food."
One woman who had lived in Port Clarence for 39 years was evacuated despite there being no flooding in her street.
"We were told the banks had burst and we had to leave," said the woman who did not want to be identified.
"I'm very scared for my dogs I've had to leave on their own. We want to know what's going on and when we can return."
Another, less powerful storm surge is expected to hit the coast at about 5am tomorrow morning.