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1987: The great October storm
The winds which swept across southern Britain in October 1987 left the worst-hit areas totally devastated.

The storm uprooted millions of trees, ripped roofs off buildings, destroyed cars and even reduced an Isle of Wight pier to a pile of flotsam.

Many parts of the country were cut off from power and 18 people lost their lives in winds which reached 100 mph (161 km/h) in parts of the UK.

Open the picture gallery in the middle column to view some images of the damage caused by the severe weather.

Your storm stories:

At the time of the storm, I was sixteen and a boarder at Cobham Hall School for Girls, in north Kent. It is a converted stately home, mostly dating from 1587, with leaded windows and beautiful grounds.

I woke up sometime in the middle of the night because my bed was shaking - I was on the top bunk - and the electric fire door mechanisms were buzzing.

Our bedroom window was rattling, and we could hear loud banging in the courtyard as stuff was blown around by the wind. Since the fire alarm didn't go off and nobody came to tell us to get up, we tried to get back to sleep - but eventually curiosity got the better of us all and the corridors were gradually filled with confused, sleepy teenagers.

One of my friends had slept through a tree breaking through the window by her bed, covering her in glass. She was unharmed, but slightly alarmed when she woke up.

The school grounds lost 200 trees, including some very old lime trees. The caretaker had a near miss when a glass tile from the swimming pool whizzed past his neck as he did his rounds in the morning.

We weren't allowed to cross over the bridge to the tutorial block because of the high winds, and many of the teachers were stranded at home because of the high winds or storm damage, so us girls made ourselves breakfast, wrapped up warmly, and spent the day clearing falling trees and cutting them into logs.

Many of us spent a lot of our leisure time for the next few months trying to help restore the grounds after the storm. We had an amazing fire on November 5th that year though!
Emma, Leicestershire

In the early morning my father and I stood looking across Dorking at the utter devastation done to the trees on the horizon.

After a few minutes, my father asked me how many trees we had at the end of our garden. I thought for a moment and said, "six".

Well, we were down by one. It had fallen away from our garden down the hill onto the houses below. We rushed down the garden terrified as to what had happened - luckily the tree was very polite and the only casualty was a greenhouse.

My Godmother, five doors down, was not so lucky. They had woken in the night when one of the monkey-puzzle trees in their front garden joined them in bed!

The tree-down tally was so bad overall that school was closed. Oh happy day.
Paul Robins, UK

My father was caught by the winds while he was driving a 40ft truck and trailer and it picked it up and hurled it down the motorway.

I am grateful that my father survived, but it was a scary time for everyone.
Christopher Wright, Wales

On the night in question we were at sea in the north Irish Sea bound for the Clyde under sail in a small Sail Training Vessel.

The shipping forecasts certainly warned that there was going to be an extraordinary weather event - at the time forecast to come in from the Western Approaches, sweep up the St George's Channel into the Irish Sea and hammer us with winds in excess of gale force and possibly approaching storm force.

We prepared with extreme care, eating a (last?) hearty meal, stowing and re-stowing the vessel, checking lifelines over and snuggling down to the minimum of storm canvas - which ,as there was not yet any wind of significance, meant that we were barely moving.

And we sat and sat and sat.

Clyde Coastguard kept calling us through the night to ask what was happening and we kept telling them we were fine.

In fact as the barometer made no significant change that night and the wind did not increase significantly - we ended the night with full light weather canvas set as we sailed slowly into the Clyde.

The morning shipping forecast followed by the news made it clear what had happened.

Poor Michael Fish ... The truth is that the strength of the winds WAS forecast - but the direction was not correctly identified
Graeme Smith, USA ex-UK
The weather did not swing up the St George's Channel but instead swung into the English Channel and then jumped ashore on the South Coast of England to wreak havoc.

Comparing stories with other sail training organisations at our next winter conference was certainly interesting. A number of sister vessels were in the Channel Isles and spent the night at anchor motoring full ahead to take some strain off their chains.

One lucky windsurfer got snatched out the water as he was blown by one of them headed for the open sea.

Poor Michael Fish has always been lambasted and quoted out of context over that event but the truth is that the strength of the winds WAS forecast - but the direction was not correctly identified. Something that still happens.
Graeme Smith, USA ex-UK

I was seven years of age and in Scotland at a family wedding when the hurricane hit Sussex.

Our dad had stayed behind, on the 70ft houseboat on which we lived in Newhaven Marina. During the height of the storm, the boat broke free from its moorings, and brave Dad had to climb aboard our tiny, dilapidated pedalo, paddle out into the mountainous waves, and re-rope the ship to its berth!
Veronica Jones, UK

I lived in Weymouth at the time, and I remember being woken by the volume of sound produced by the wind and the rain.

But what really scared me when I got up to look out of the window, was feeling the rippling of the carpet under my feet where the wind seemed to be coming in up under the floorboards.

This continued for about an hour, and then it very suddenly all died down. I tried getting back to sleep, but after about 20 mins or so, it all started up again, and to me, seemed louder than it had been before.
Susan, UK

My brother had a Ford Cortina which had been stolen and wrecked. After a lengthy search, it was finally recovered by the police in a wrecked state with all the wheels gone.

The car went in for costly repairs but it was finally returned to my brother the night of the hurricane where he proudly parked it outside our mother's house in Hersham, Surrey.

The next morning, he looked out of the window to see the devastation wreaked by the hurricane and his car was nowhere to be seen. Stolen again? Not so, in fact it was obscured under a huge tree which had fallen over his newly restored car during the night.

There is a happy ending, believe it or not! By the time the fire brigade had lifted the tree of the car, it miraculously transpired that the car was completely unscathed! Not even a scratch.

I meanwhile was in Surbiton, slept through everything and was shocked to see what had happened during the night!
Jane Engelman, UK

I remember being woken by the sound of the climbing rose being ripped from the front of the house and then drifted off to sleep again.

I was living in Sheerwater near Woking in Surrey and was working as a service engineer for a large vending company called Roboserve.

It was not until I got up that I realised the devastation the storm had caused. There were many trees down some had crashed into houses and some cars had been flattened as though they were made from paper.

The company I worked for had a fault report centre based in North London and it became obvious that they did not realise the amount of damage the storm had caused. I tried explaining that many of the roads were blocked by falling trees but they insisted I took a call in Sussex. Sussex? I thought they were joking at first.

It took me over four hours to get to the job, on many occasions stopping to help clear trees from my route.

When I arrived the factory whose vending machine was playing up was without power so it was a fruitless journey.

By the time I called back in to the fault report centre the news had reached them and they told me to make my way home. I nearly ran out of diesel on the way back as all the petrol stations were without power until I got back to Guildford.
Martin Clarke, UK

I was only seven at the time, living in Basildon, Essex.

I remember the wind being so strong that it blew the curtains horizontal to the ceiling (even though the window was only on vent).

The devastation the next day was incredible. I will never forget the house in Wickford Ave, Pitsea, losing its entire wall (the wall was lying flat on the ground still in one piece). All of us children thought it was great because the schools were closed.
Jason Lowe, UK

I live in a valley in Dorset, about 28 miles inland from Portland.

At about 6 am I came downstairs prior to going to work. On the wall at the bottom of the stairs is a barometer. I noticed the reading was 28.4. This was the lowest I had ever seen it so I assumed it was broken.

Driving up out of the valley I noticed twigs and small branches on the road.

This puzzled me because we had heard no wind to speak of during the night.

As I continued up the hill I was amazed to see quite large trees broken in half, with branches scattered around.

I now realised there was nothing wrong with my barometer.
David Caines, UK

My parents lived in Horsham and the town's ancient park's trees were scattered like matchsticks, and they were without power for two weeks.
Jonathan Munn, England

A few years back a friend of my dad's called Colin recounted how he had gone to work in Swanage, Hampshire the day before the storm. Colin and his wife lived in the costal area of Barton-on-Sea which is also in Hampshire.

At 0730 Colin rang home because he had been forced to stay the night in Swanage. Colin was looking out through a window whilst he spoke to his wife over the phone (which was still in working order).

Colin said, "How is it there, dear? Are you OK?" He remembers hearing a cracking noise and then his wife said: "Yes, dear. I am fine. But the shed has just gone past the kitchen window".

A humorous side to an otherwise nasty day.
Dave Harries, Bristol, UK

It was my sister's 18th birthday that night and her shortlist of venues was down to a nightclub or Shanklin pier. The pier was no more by the morning, so I think she made a good choice!
Matthew Hampshire, UK

I lived in a valley on the Sussex coast and I was only 15 at the time. The valley acted like a wind funnel.

I watched dustbin lids and tiles flying through the air like cruise missiles.
Rob Matson, Vanuatu, UK ex-pat
Our road was in complete chaos at about 0500. The camper van up the road was upside down in the middle of the road and the caravan five doors up had gone to the neighbours.

I watched a seven foot by six foot fence panel fly from the left of our back garden into the neighbour's house on the right. It was at that point that my father and I decided to bring the rabbit hutch indoors.

I watched dustbin lids and tiles flying through the air like cruise missiles.

I went up the shop to do my paper-round at 0700 and it was still very windy. Needless to say no papers arrived as all the roads to our area were cut off by fallen trees.

Now I live in the pacific I can expect to experience a real cyclone.
Rob Matson, Vanuatu, UK ex-pat

Horrendous. My little brother had his seventh birthday on the day of the storm. As I remember, it didn't start until after I went to bed. I was only nine.

Our neighbour's car was simply lying under a tree outside our front door
Lindy, Devon, UK
I remember waking up in the middle of the night and calling my mum because I thought there were burglars in the roof. She told me that there was a bit of a storm and that's what I could hear.

It turned out that so many roof-tiles had been ripped off in the storm overnight, that it was one of my old tricycles rolling up and down the loft in the wind.

In the morning we found cars smashed to pieces by the falling trees. Our neighbour's car was simply lying under a tree outside our front door.

Mum and dad watched the back garden fence and gate fly around and trap the cat. They couldn't get out into the garden to rescue her whilst the wind was blowing though, so a rescue effort was launched in the morning! She was OK... She lived until last year...
Lindy, Devon, UK

I was 12 when this happened and I was going to the doctor. We managed to get there even though trees were scattered everywhere, but when my dad dropped me off at school there was hardly anyone there, and about one hour later they decided to close the school for the day.

So one of my teachers had to drive me home. I remember we couldn't go the usual way as I lived near Burnham Beeches, and it was impassable, so we had to go the long way round.
Beccy, Wigan

There was a massive branch from a tree coming through the window
Henry O'Donovan, Australia
I was living in London on the day of the great storm. I got up to get ready for work and put on the kettle as usual.

I noticed there were twigs all over the kettle, and then looked to my left where the kitchen window, er, used to be! There was a massive branch from a tree coming through the window. My cat was sitting on it as if it was perfectly natural for a tree branch to be in my kitchen!

I tried to go to work, but the driver of the bus I was on came across a fallen tree, and so we were going no further. It was a memorable day and I do remember how much flack the met office got because they did not forecast it.
Henry O'Donovan, Sydney, Australia

We were living near Richmond in Surrey, and were woken in the night by howling winds and so much noise. Our bedroom backed onto a square where there were a lot of willow trees. The noise was these most enormous willow trees crashing to the ground.

Our kids slept through all of this and the next morning could not believe their eyes. The square and the street outside our house was like a war zone. Trees were smashed on cars, the roads were impassable but through all the mess the reliable milkman and his float was delivering the milk, zigzagging amongst the debris!

My sister who lived round the corner, and who was never an early riser, walked round at 0700 in the morning surveying the damage. In fact everyone was out and there was such an air of excitement and gossip!
Sally Freeman, Australia

Both of us slept through the entire hurricane and its 90 mph-plus winds!
Rich Kulczycki, USA
My wife and I were in London on our honeymoon on the day of the hurricane. We had just got back from a tour of Europe the day before via the ferry across the channel and had one more day in London before heading back home.

Later that day we learned they had to evacuate the ferries. We were so tired from our trip, both of us slept through the entire hurricane and its 90 mph-plus winds!

I got a call at about 0500 from our driver back to the airport telling us he'd have to arrive a few hours early. I remember looking out the window of the hotel and seeing the city blacked out.

To our amazement we were able to get to the airport on time (our driver did a great job of avoiding the downed trees) and the flight left on schedule. What an ending to a great trip.
Rich Kulczycki, USA

I remember the hurricane clearly. I was living in Wimbledon and woke at about 0400 to howling winds and strange thudding noises.

I was living alone at the time and was concerned there was an intruder in the garden. I pulled the curtains back and all I could see was darkness. It didn't dawn on me that the street lights were blacked out and there was no electricity. I returned to bed and eventually fell asleep.

Next morning, about 0700, it was still fairly dark outside. What I couldn't understand was why my neighbours' house lights weren't switched on as they would normally have been getting ready for work. I hadn't switched mine on.

Then I stepped outside to roof tiles in the garden and next door's fence blown over. Fortunately there were no trees down but a lot of rubble. There was however an eerie silence. Without electricity and the usual hustle and bustle of a London street it was extremely peaceful.

I caught the Northern Line train to Old Street and continued to my work at St Luke's Primary school. For the first time in two years there were no delays en route and I arrived early and unrushed. There were even spare seats.

However, when the kids started to arrive it was a different story. Most of the staff lived a fair distance away from the school and for 150 kids we only had two teachers and a few local assistants. The parents were great and remained with their children until a few more staff arrived by 1030. We actually had a fabulous day and all pulled together.

At home time we all set off immediately and were home within a reasonable period. Power was restored at home and I then had the opportunity to see the true effects of that freak weather on TV.
Julia Pearl, Australia

I was living in Devon. I woke up and looked out the window to see roof tiles flying horizontally across the garden. I then later found a piece of one imbedded 3 cm into a thick wooden door.
T Higgins, Australia

I was 13 and on my way to Portugal with my family.

The pilot came over the radio and said he was having to make a slight detour around a storm heading for the UK. With a chukle in his voice he said they were saying it could turn into a hurricane, no one was worried we just thought it was typical media over reaction.

Two days later the UK papers arrive in resort and we saw the devastation that had been caused and on phoning my grandad who was looking after the dog discovered our six foot brick wall and greenhouse were no more.
Kelly Lamb, Portsmouth

I was living in Portsmouth at the time and woke up in the middle of the night to hear my old windows rattling. I just turned over and pulled the covers up and went back to sleep!

When I awoke in the morning the radio came on and it was like an Orson Wells story-train lines closed, roads unpassable buldings falling down.

I remember there were six houses opposite that were all owned by the same man and all the roofs must have lost about 80% of their tiles. It was a joy to behold the fireman going up onto the roof!
Sue Atkins, UK

Even with both skylights fully open, I slept through the whole damn thing!
Matt, England

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Road blocked by tree after the storm
Many areas of southern Britain were totally devastated


See more images of the October 1987 storm

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