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History: The Great Storm of 1987

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The Great Storm of 1987 full story...

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Lampost twisted and destroyed by the storm

Dark Is The Night

In the early hours of 16th October 1987 I was awakened by a strange whirring sound. Then I heard the windows rattle which made me realise it was the sound of the wind, a sound I'd never heard it make before - except in the movies.

I put the bedside lamp on; it didn't work. I woke my wife as I got up and switched on the main light. It was the same - no light. We had a street lamp outside our home, but tonight it wasn't working either. I fumbled round in the darkness and found a small torch. As I moved about the house I was ever aware of this unremmitting, unnerving whirring roar outside which threatened to invade the home at any second. I went into the back bedroom and found my older boy was already awake. The wind direction was south-westerly, and the back of the house was taking an even bigger pounding than the front where our bedroom was. I brought him into our bedroom, and then went and to fetch my younger boy, who was also in a back bedroom. He was sound asleep, despite the whail outside, and probably would have gone through the night unaware of the drama unfolding.

I then found an old battery transistor radio which had long ago been abandoned in a drawer. The four of us huddled together in bed. The gas central heating had been off for some hours now and the house was cold. With no electricity it couldn't be switched on.I fiddled with the radio for some time but failed to find a station that could enlighten us as to what our situation was.

And so we continued until the cold light of dawn allowed us to move around the house freely by which time the wind had subsided and a sense of relief cheered us, even though we couldn't even boil a kettle.

The Morning After

The phones were still working and we exchanged calls with relatives. Then after a cold breakfast we dressed and went out to witness the results of the night's storm.

Fortunately for us, our own home had suffered no more damage than a loose roofing tile, but all around town we saw extensive damage. Houses with half their roofs ripped off. Walls blown over. But the most obvious evidence of destruction was the fallen trees which littered the parks and streets. Brighton has many trees and that night many were lost.

Worst Storm In South East England Since 1703

Mature uprooted tree in Queens Park During the hours of darkness the storm swept across southern England. The highest wind speeds seem to have been along the south coast, with a gust of 100 knots recorded at Shoreham. 18 people lost their lives in England. In total it is estimated that around 15 million trees were destroyed. And on the morning after hundreds of thousands were without electricity; roads and railway lines were blocked.

The previous fortnight had seen a lot of rainfall, making the earth sodden, and the trees less stable in the face of high gusting wind speeds. In Brighton a large swathe of Stanmer Wood was blown over, and if you walk through the wood even today you will notice the rotting 'corpses' of many trees.

You can read a Met Office account here.

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