Tonight marks the 25th anniversary of the ‘Great Storm of 1987’. That night 25 years ago southern England was hit by winds as strong as a hurricane – reaching 120 mph. We hadn’t experienced anything like it since 1703 – and it’s unlikely any of us alive today will experience anything like it again.
The British take pride in their weather. Our forecasters are a national institution – we watch them every evening. But that night in 1987 one of our best – Michael Fish – told us that a weather feature forming off the Bay of Biscay west of France was nothing to worry about; how wrong he was.
Lucky this wasn’t the States – he’d have been a goner if it had been left-hand drive
The storm headed north-east, up the English Channel and devastated southern England, taking down 15 million trees (which at that time of year were still covered with foliage, so went down like dominoes). 18 people died. Of course, being 17, I slept through the whole thing. Waking up that morning I got ready for school and started off on the 30 minute trek.
Our road was impassable. Except for those walking.
My parent’s road – no one went to work that day
Which of course I was so I carried on, cursing my bad fortune at being able to get to school on foot. But school was a non-starter that day. Although I managed to get there, only about 10 others joined me.
A few feet to the left and we’d have had no maths for a while
Nothing moved anywhere for days. The council had to remove untold quantities of trees from the roads but more importantly the railway lines; where we live most people get to work by train and all the lines were blocked by hundreds of fallen trees. In fact ever since that night the railway companies have removed millions of trees from the sides of the tracks.
I know that this kind of thing happens all the time in other parts of the world – but for good old leafy Surrey some of us still go a bit funny if the wind picks up!
All photos courtesy of my parents who had the foresight to realise this event was worth photographing.