The severe gales that lashed northern parts of Britain have destroyed at least one business and left other timber and wood product companies struggling to cope.

Staff at Alexandra Sawmills Ltd, Carlisle, Cumbria, which supplies local housebuilders, joinery manufacturers, fencing contractors and the public, found their site under 10ft of water at the weekend and the company lost everything from machinery and wagons to offices and computers.

General manager Caroline McLeod: “I am sitting in my car with a mobile phone – and that is all the office we have left. We are hoping to find some temporary accommodation to get back up and running.

“Our offices and sawmill were totally submerged so we have no equipment and our stock of 1,000m3 of timber and sheet materials has gone. Some timber was found floating in very peculiar places.”

Carcassing production ground to a halt at BSW Timber in Carlisle which was without power for 24 hours on Monday, but there was no water damage. Customer services manager Gilmour McKellar said: “Our despatches were maintained at normal levels and production started again on Tuesday morning.

“Our telephone systems were switched through to other offices and we lost just under 1,000m3 of production, but will soon make that up.”

While 10,000 homes in Hexham were without water after two water mains were washed away, Egger remained in full production.

The factory is supplied by a bore hole and marketing manager Nick McClughin explained: “The only problems we experienced were when the water board put a temporary stop on our supply because they needed to fill bowsers for those without water.”

The offices were not so lucky – another burst water main meant there was no running water and portaloos had to be hired until the proper service resumed.