View Full Version : The Great Storm of 1987

31st Oct 2018, 20:00
Just been clearing out decades worth of accumulated junk and came across this copy of a barogram, recorded in the ops room of the establishment I was based at on RNAS Culdrose at the time of the infamous storm that made Michael Fish look a bit foolish.

https://cimg8.ibsrv.net/gimg/pprune.org-vbulletin/1024x323/great_storm_1987_bde4b9e5b0b4bca0b1a74e78a854d176584ab90a.jp g

Looks like a pretty impressively sharp pressure drop as the eye of the storm went over our area. I remember coming in the morning after and seeing loads of rubbish pinned to the chain link fencing, hangars with cladding ripped off and what looked like a Seaking rotor blade pinned to the fence. We got off relatively lightly down in SW Cornwall, as my in-laws in West Sussex suffered serious damage, including a tree falling on their parked car.

I'd forgotten I'd got this, it must have been tucked away in this old file from around the time of the storm at a guess, so around 30 years or so.

31st Oct 2018, 20:20
I remember the night well. We had been night flying from Odiham and the wind was in limits but increasing, not a problem for us.
I arrived home around midnight, put the empty glass milk bottles in their plastic crate outside the front door and went to bed. I was later awakened by the sound of rattling milk bottles and other unusual noises and realised the wind had increased tremendously in the hour or so since I'd gone to bed. I decided to go down and bring the milk bottles in before they broke. As I opened the front door a huge gust took them off up the pavement, all four sliding along in their crate. Without thinking I sprinted after them but the wind was very strong indeed and they were now going up the middle of the road. I couldn't catch them for about two hundred yards. Having finally caught up with them and picked them up I turned round and suddenly realised I had been running up the main road in my pyjamas and dressing gown and with bare feet!

The next day it became clear that all hell had broken loose. A very large proportion of the trees in our area were down, blocking off many local roads and bringing down many power cables, some of which were still live.

31st Oct 2018, 20:24
Great storm I remember was that of January 1976.

I was living at Coltishall. It ripped the roof off the swimming pool and blew it across the airfield where it wrapped itself around the lox tanks. Thankfully it didn’t pierce any or the result might have been even more spectacular.


31st Oct 2018, 23:11
One confesses to a certain amount of Schadenfreude when thinking back to that night. Came downstairs to make a cuppa, having been woken by wind. Next door was an office building, car park, and in working hours a rather unpleasant little man complete with greasy blue mac and peaked cap, whose sole vocab seemed to be 'Yer can't park here, mate.'
t'other side of the wall was his little hut, and as I was waiting for the kettle to boil the storm hit it. Straight up like an Atlas Five, to the height of about 20', then it came apart. Walls separated and went off in several directions, roof came down pretty much where it had started.

I'm told that car park users discovered that his vocabulary contained a few other words the following morning...

31st Oct 2018, 23:53
Slept right through the whole lot, knew nothing about it until watching the news next morning where some reporter suggested Sevenoaks should be renamed Oneoak.

31st Oct 2018, 23:55
I was in the habit of regular business trips to Guildford.
The devastation of the woodlands was beyond belief.

1st Nov 2018, 06:30
I remember the January 1968 hurricane that hit Scotland, and seeing the barograph trace. It started off as normal then took a near vertical dive over a period of a few hours.

Super VC-10
1st Nov 2018, 12:56
Sevenoaks was indeed renamed Oak. some wag painted over the Seven and final S on the sign at the south of the town. It also gained the nickname "Oak and six saplings" following the planting of replacements for the Seven Oaks that were lost.

jez d
1st Nov 2018, 13:10
Came downstairs to make a cuppa, having been woken by wind.

I get that too :(

Tech Guy
1st Nov 2018, 16:31
I was working aboard a cross channel ferry that night. The Captain decided it was not worth sailing the return journey beck to Dover from Zebrugge, as Dover had shut up shop.Instead we gave the passengers free fish and chips and watched as all the neatly stacked rows of 40' shipping containers blew over like a giant version of domino toppling. At one point, the anemometer broke. It went up to 120 knots. :eek:

1st Nov 2018, 17:02
I spent the night in a well insulated London Hotel room.

Completely oblivious of it all, till I tried to get to my 1st meeting of the day.

1st Nov 2018, 17:17
Slept through it (Dorking, Surrey) and by the morning the entire road consisted of fallen trees... but Michael Fish taught me a good lesson in life... always be wary of met reports!

1st Nov 2018, 17:29
Walked in to work in Croydon via a friend's house where I'd left my bike the night before. I often saw a rather smart Dolomite Sprint parked on Brighton Road which I rather lusted after - large tree down where it normally parked - oh dear... No, it was parked round the corner! Absolutely massive oak blocking a footpath which I managed to climb over - very lucky it hadn't come down on houses either side of the path.

I remember driving down to Hampshire on the Saturday to see some friends whose phone was cut off and drove straight past their driveway which was totally unrecogniseable. Spent the next several weekends helping to clear fallen trees on their land and on a nearby lane which wasn't on the council's priority list.

The proud father in this Times article (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-great-storm-of-1987-30-years-on-8wc89qhwq) became a colleague a few years later...

1st Nov 2018, 18:17
My brother had started his own landscaping business in the Summer of 1987, and this storm gave him a fantastic boost to get his business off the ground. He was trying to drive to our farm in his truck the next morning and found the road blocked with a fallen tree, so got his chainsaw out and started cutting it up to clear the road. There was a South West Electricity Board van stuck, too, who were trying to repair power lines that trees had brought down, and they hired him on the spot to follow them around, cutting up trees so they could repair cables. IIRC he spent two or three days working for them, on a much higher rate than he'd normally charge, plus he got to keep much of the timber. Our Dutch barn ended up filled to the roof with stacked firewood, plus the drive to the farm had tree trunks stacked down both sides for months afterwards. He always reckoned that this "windfall" was the thing that really kick started his business, by giving him the idea to sell firewood during the winter, when the landscaping work dried up.

SMT Member
1st Nov 2018, 21:06
Was at work in OPS that night in Copenhagen. Saw the last aircraft to land float in at what looked liked walking pace. Granted, a 747 always look 'slow', but this was spectacular. It was a US registered freighter, and he managed to bounce his way to the cargo stands. Where he sat without anyone coming out to meet the aircraft, as the wind was 60 something gusting 80-90 - way beyond the limit for sending a ramper out with chocks and a power. They called for a set of stairs over the radio, but was told it was impossible. Think they sat there for the better part of 6 hours, trapped inside the aircraft as we were inside the building. Our building was stood quite still though, the same couldn't be said for the 747!

2nd Nov 2018, 00:31
Was it the '87 Great Storm when a parked 747 and 707 were blown in to each other and suffered some damage at Heathrow? Know a number of light aircraft were written off around SE England.

Ant T
2nd Nov 2018, 00:35
I was a passenger on a Tristar from the Falklands, arrivng at Brize Norton in the early hours of that morning. The aircraft went around off the first approach, but landed off the second one. The announcement came over to take care walking across to the terminal as it was "a bit windy".
My brother was late arriving to pick me up, and while waiting, and watching the breakfast TV in the terminal, I started to realise just how bad it was.

Krystal n chips
2nd Nov 2018, 07:07
Anecdotes aside, here's the Met Office's version.....


2nd Nov 2018, 09:36
I flew a 747 into Heathrow that morning. The outbound leg to Kuwait had been flown by the co-pilot, I was to fly the over night return sector. When we arrived for the briefing in Kuwait, the co-pilot and flight engineer started chuckling and, doing their best to keep straight faces, handed me the met folder, saying something like, "Looks like a nice morning for flying, boss." It showed something like 60kts gusting 80 across the runway (I forget the exact figures) and much the same across most of the UK and northern Europe. I thought they were pulling my leg and asked for the real one! But of course it was real.

I decided to load full tanks, destination Europe, and see what would happen. Half way across Europe we listened to the aviation weather reports, and to the Shipping Forecast on BBC Radio Four (always a good guide!) and heard about force 10 to 11 gales. The early morning news even announced that my home town had been cut off and described the devastation everywhere. However, the wind had abated somewhat by the time we arrived at around 08.00 and, apart from a rather bumpy approach, it turned out to be a minor event.

The most difficult part was negotiating the fallen trees as I drove home. I only just managed it.

2nd Nov 2018, 19:16
Was in London visiting an ex colleague who had broken his leg on holidays, Visited him in early evening and grabbed a bus / tube / bus to where I was staying in East London.

Never heard the storm during the night in mates place as was in the back of the house. Next morning woke up and a lodger he had using an attic room found one of his doors onto a small balcony was gone, never found again. Lodger woke at 6am wondering why a bit windy and found out why.

2nd Nov 2018, 19:19
The next day it became clear that all hell had broken loose. A very large proportion of the trees in our area were down, blocking off many local roads and bringing down many power cables, some of which were still live.

Well made point.

In Ireland earlier this year when they got hit by a tropical storm, guy killed clearing a tree that had brought down electricity wires that were still live when he went to cut up the tree.

3rd Nov 2018, 15:39
My house was some 3 miles from the Thames Estuary. During the night, the noise was so great that it even woke me. Wife huddled downstairs fearing roof or chimney would fall.
Scoffed at that, if it was going to happen and my number was up, wouldn't matter where I was so went back to bed.
About 4 am a terrific crash from the roof. Came 6 am and the noise was so bad that I got up and switched on the radio when it was obvious that no rail service to London was possible, so no point trying to get to the station.
When light enough, looked out of the bedroom window to survey the area and there was a thick layer of salt blown all the way inland smearing all the windows.
Going in to the back garden, the TV aerial had been torn from its mounting on the chimney stack, bring down some of the ornamental brisk coursing and pebble dash.
The debris had punched a hole through the roof tiles.
So first job, get down to the salvage yard for replacement tiles, about 12 I thought. Picked a way there, about 3 miles which took over an hour with fallen trees and other debris in the roads.
Got there, purchased a dozen tiles and saw the queue behind me growing at an alarming rate.
Got home, up in the loft and fitted the slates through the slats in the roof, fitted the last one in place as it began to rain, in torrents. Phew!

Insurance claim paid for a velux window where the hole had been and I reckon I saved them the cost of at least one ceiling by fixing the roof so fast.

Certainly a day to remember as the devastation across the country became clear.

3rd Nov 2018, 16:13
I'd just built myself an airband receiver from a kit (proper frequency synthesizer too!) and spent a large part of the night listening to London Volmet South and Main with increasing incredulity. In the morning the south sides of all the cars in our road were covered in a green paste made from shredded leaves.

El Grifo
3rd Nov 2018, 16:20
Was working along with a colleague as a Tree Surgeon at the time
We were pretty good.
Got a call from Southern Tree Surgeons to come down an help clear the devastation for a week at double rates.
After the first tough week, they offered us triple rates to stay for a second week.
We had to get back to Scotland thereafter, despite pleas and even better offers !

El G.