I have travelled extensively and some of my trips have been to destinations which are afflicted by hurricanes. I once arrived in New Orleans in the wake of a major storm which had flattened large areas of Louisiana and I endured the fringes of a Floridian hurricane whilst staying on Marco Island. These episodes demonstrated to me how devastating a hurricane could be but somehow these events seemed part of another world far away. Britain does not normally find itself in the eye of the storm and so the last place I expected to experience a hurricane was at home, but in 1987 that is exactly what happened.
The younger generations would not have been born or will have no recollection of the events of 1987 but they are fresh in my memory. I write this piece on the 26th anniversary of the storm which hit southern Britain on the night of 15 October. The occasion is most often remembered for the unfortunate weather forecast delivered by broadcaster Michael Fish a few hours before the storm struck. In his broadcast he assured the nation that a hurricane was not on the way but that it would get very windy. He has later claimed that his pronouncement was about a Floridian event but I don’t believe that for one minute!
The Fateful Night
I went to bed that evening thinking that the weather was pretty unpleasant but nothing more than that, but woke the next morning to find a devastation zone in my street. There was debris everywhere and listening to the news reports I was relieved that my house had made it through relatively unscathed. The hurricane proved to be the most expensive ever weather event in the UK for insurers who took a hit of £2 billion as thousands of properties were damaged and vital services were seriously disrupted. 15 million trees fell and transport services ground to a halt. It felt like life after a nuclear holocaust.
Getting to Work
My biggest problem was how to get to work. I had a particularly draconian boss who I felt would not except a mere hurricane as a reason for absence. I lived in London and the rail and underground services were not operating. Bus routes were seriously disrupted by fallen trees and debris and so I felt that my only recourse was to walk the 4 miles into the city. I wondered if I should wear my motocross helmet as debris was still falling in the wind. People had already been killed and I didn’t want to join their ranks. I left home in trainers and sporting my helmet and picked my way into work past piles of branches, roof tiles and spilled rubbish bins.
When I arrived at work I was congratulated for having made it and then immediately sent home! I trudged all the way back having wasted a day but with the knowledge that I had gained many brownie points for my efforts. A few days later it felt like nothing had happened as an impressive clear up operation restored the streets to normality but it wasn’t much fun whilst it lasted. With the effects of global warning it is predicted that the UK will experience more serious weather events in the coming years. I hope we can avoid another episode like 1987.
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Sally Stacey is a keen writer and business owner who divides her time between writing and running her bridal shop.