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
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.