SCENES of devastation greeted people across south Cumbria as they woke up to a total washout yesterday morning. 

The River Leven burst its banks on Saturday night sending waves of water cascading over bridges and into homes, businesses and hotels. 

As torrents of flood water hurtled down the river, residents and visitors alike were told to evacuate. 

The Whitewater Hotel and Leisure Club, at Backbarrow, bore the brunt of flooding. 

With water flowing off the roof of the restaurant and the deluge sweeping past rooms, management took the decision to evacuate the building yesterday (sun) morning.

Peter Chadwick, operations manager of Whitewater Hotel and Leisure Club, said: "We're evacuating because we've got no power now. Our restaurant is completely gone, our bar and grill is submerged and a lot of the rooms are gone. 

"They're evacuating the 40 time share properties as well."

Mr Chadwick reported that staff and guests were left feeling shocked.

He said: "It all just happened so quickly. Me and Steph, the manager, had a look at three o'clock yesterday and the river was high but it wasn't that bad.

"Around four o'clock it got a bit higher and started coming through the doors. By nine o'clock we had to move everyone upstairs."

The hotel was home to more than 70 guests from across the country who had travelled to Cumbria for an annual Christmas party. 

One guest, Jane Nolan, who had travelled from Liverpool, said guests were feeling trapped.

She said: "We're all just feeling lost. There's a lot of people who have to try and get back home who are just feeling stranded - it's not a good place to be. 

"There's a lot of people who have come from all over the country just to be here. Some people are going away in the morning and have flights to catch and other people have left their children with babysitters at home and need to get back but can't get anywhere." 

Owners of the timeshare properties were also evacuated as firefighters waded through the water to retrieve what could be saved from the houses. 

William Athersmith, crew manager of Ulverston Fire Station, led the operation. 

He said: "We're just evacuating all the people who are in the timeshare properties. We've got 10 people so far from this side."

The area flooded once before in the catastrophic floods of 2009 but Mr Athersmith believes this time it was just as bad. 

He said: "It's bad - really bad. This is worse than before. Everybody has said that. We're hoping the bridge should be secure because it was repaired last time."

One resident, Veronica Brindle of Brow Edge Road, said: "It's been years since it was this bad. It took the bridge out last time but I've never seen flooding to this scale. I'm just shocked. We knew it was going to be bad but not to this scale."

Just one mile up the road, further destruction was unleashed as The Swan Hotel and Spa and surrounding houses were also swallowed up by the storm. 

As the river pushed its way inside the hotel, guests were moved upstairs to escape the water while staff worked 30 hour shifts to keep guests safe. 

But Paul Bulmer, assistant restaurant manager, reported that the hotel was well-prepared. 

He said: "We've flooded before so management have got a good nose for it. Everybody is keyed up on what to do of things go wrong."

With the hotel preparing the close on Sunday night, staff were frantically trying to re-house guests and provide food and transport for those stranded overnight. 

Rebecca and Scott Harvey travelled from Liverpool as they do every year to see Santa at Haverthwaite. 

Mrs Harvey said: "It took us six hours to get here and we're hoping to get back tonight when the roads open but the car park is stuck in the car park. 

"Scott is worried about the car but I'm worried about my safety and my little girl who is just three. 

"We've never experience anything like this at all. I'm just worried about what we're going to do and how we're going to get anywhere. 

"The hotel has been great though and is doing whatever it can to help."

Staff, residents and guests alike were just in awe of the power of the water and humanity's sheer inability to do anything to prevent the destruction it can cause. 

Mr Bulmer said: "When water starts coming up and getting closer to the hotel you just know that it's going to go. It's just a matter of time."

Judith and Mike Wren, who lives at Levenside - the other side of the bridge, manufacture the iconic Kin Toffee Vodka and were supposed to be at the Taste Cumbria Christmas food festival but had to cancel due to the flood that gutted their home. 

Mrs Wren said: "You can't do anything to stop floods. You can put fires out but you can't stop water. 

"No amount of sitting up and watching and waiting is ever going to stop it."