England (AP) - A powerful storm...

GREAT YARMOUTH,

November 12, 2007

GREAT YARMOUTH, England (AP) - A powerful storm unleashed tidal surges and ferocious winds that prompted hundreds to evacuate in Britain, but left countries along the North Sea coast largely unscathed.

Early Friday, waves up to 20 feet high rolled up against sea defenses in Lowestoft, the most easterly point in Britain, about 120 miles northeast of London on the North Sea coast. But the peak of the predicted surge passed without causing any major damage.

"It didn't turn out as bad as we thought," said Jill Bird, 47, a hotel cook from Great Yarmouth, about 135 miles northeast of London. "We were very worried because this was the biggest surge since 1953, when several hundred people died. So we feel very, very lucky this morning."

By midmorning, police were allowing people to return to homes in Britain's low-lying areas.

"It was a pretty close shave," British Environment Agency spokesman Jo Giacomelli said. "It was still very, very high tides indeed."

Britain closed the Thames River barrier, downstream from London, as a precaution.

In France, wind gusts of up to 66 mph whipped northern towns during overnight storms, blowing off rooftops and uprooting trees, according to regional emergency services.

The storm did not hit Germany as hard as expected Thursday night. But the port of Hamburg was closed, and its main fish market and riverfront thoroughfare were under water.

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