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The Great Storm of 1987

Posted by Big Boo on November 27th, 2009

storm damageThe stormy weather we’ve been having in southern England over the past week or two prompted my friend Philip to suggest that a good post for this site would be about the Great Storm of 1987, so a big “Cheers” to him for the inspiration today.

During the night of October 15th 1987 the southern part of England was hit by the worst storm in over 250 years. By the time the storm dissipated the following day it had left a trail of destruction across the country, killing at least 18 people. The storms also ravaged France, adding a further four people to the death toll.

The thing about this particular storm is that it took the country completely by surprise, as the weather forecasters predicted that the storm would die out before it reached the UK. Rumours of a storm brewing did get started some how, prompting one woman to make weather man Michael Fish look a little foolish after the event. “A woman rang to say she’d heard there was a hurricane on the way.“, Mr. Fish almost mockingly said. “Don’t worry, there isn’t“, he went on.

To be fair to Michael, he was sort of correct. Whilst the winds generated by the storm had the speed normally associated with a hurricane, the storm couldn’t actually be classed as a hurricane because it didn’t bring enough rain with it, and the wind profile of a hurricane is also very different, having a much larger whirling effect associated with it.

When anyone who experienced this storm thinks back about it the first thing that will normally spring to mind is the sheer number of trees that were uprooted and blown down by the weather. Estimates suggest around 15 million trees were affected, with six of the most famous of these being the oak trees of Sevenoaks in Kent. Sevenoaks is a smallish commuter town, and in it’s Knole Park region there were seven large oak trees which were planted in 1902. On October 16th 1987 only one remained standing.

The day after the storm the country ground to a halt as roads and rail lines were blocked by fallen trees, and the TV news was full of pictures of houses and cars that had been unfortunate enough to have a tree land on them. The storms even affected BBC Television Centre, and that mornings Breakfast Time show had to be broadcast from an emergency location.

The storm was declared by the Met Office as a freak occurrence, something that only happens on a frequency measured in hundreds of years, so everyone was even more surprised when just three years later, in January 1990, another storm hit which was of comparable force to the 1987 Great Storm.

This storm had a similar effect on the country, and was almost the cause of the cancellation of BBC sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo, as one of the more famous casualties of this storm was Gordon Kaye, who played Rene in the show. He was hit in the forehead by a piece of an advertising hoarding, and was lucky to survive.