THE GREAT STORM
|Reporter uncovers the full story
In 1703, a catastrophic hurricane
ripped across East Anglia. It was the worst storm in British history
and killed 8,000 people. But could global warming make tomorrow's
weather even more violent? Inside Out
It is 300 years since villages from Northamptonshire to
Suffolk were decimated by 'The Great Storm'. But only now is the full
The first complete account of the
impact of the storm on the East of England has just been written by Martin
The hurricane on 26 November 1703 tore across East Anglia,
ripping up everything in its wake.
Unlike today's storms, when we have advanced warning
and can prepare for the worst, the poor souls of 1703 had no idea what
was about to hit them.
|TORNADO & HURRICANE
originate in the Tropics.
A storm featuring winds of over
74mph is often referred to as a hurricane.
A hurricane is a fierce rotating storm with an intense
centre of low pressure. In south-east Asia theyre known as
'typhoons' and in the Indian Ocean, 'cyclones'.
1998, Hurricane Gilbert produced 160 mph winds, killing 318 people,
and devastating Jamaica.
United Kingdom is actually the Worlds most tornado-prone nation.
speeds in tornadoes can vary from 72 to almost 300 mph. Fortunately,
only 2 percent of all tornadoes have winds greater than 200 mph.
Men and animals were lifted into the air
Winds and rain lashed the entire country and floods were
reported almost everywhere.
Winds of up to 80mph killed 123 people and destroyed more
than 400 windmills - many of which caught fire due to the friction of
their wildly-spinning sails.
Daniel Defoe, who travelled the country afterwards assessing
the damage, reported that men and animals were lifted off their feet and
carried for yards through the air and that lead roofs were ripped from
one hundred churches.
The Robinson Crusoe author reported seeing a tornado which
"snapped the body of an oak".
15,000 sheep were drowned in floods near Bristol and 800
houses were completely destroyed.
At Cambridge, falling masonry wrecked the organ of St
Marys church, newly installed at a cost of £1,500 - and Kings
College Chapel was badly damaged - pinnacles were toppled and much of
the fine late medieval stained glass ruined.
Martin Brayne has written a full account of the storm
of a fleet - and a lighthouse
Some 8,000 sailors perished as the storm decimated the
British fleet. Hundreds of vessels were lost, including four Royal Navy
One ship at Whitstable in Kent was lifted from the sea
and reputedly dropped some 250 yards in land.
Famously also, Henry Winstanley had the misfortune to
be in the wooden lighthouse which he had designed on Eddystone Rocks of
Plymouth on 26 November, and was killed.
What has the future in store?
While the events of 1703 may seem safely tucked away in
the depths of history, more recent events
have also savaged the British
In 1987, winds gusting up to 115mph cut a swathe of destruction
across London and the Home Counties. There were 19 deaths and the storms
caused an estimated £1bn of damage.
While not quite on the scale of the 1703 storms, this
kind of extreme weather is enough to convince some people that the global
warming is about to unleash a natural disaster of Biblical proportions
on the South of England.
Predictions by the Climate Research Unit at the University
of East Anglia put global sea level rises between 12cm and 67cm by 2050.
ships were lost in 1703
Parts of East Anglia as well as parts of the south
east could end up under water
The threat of rising sea levels is compounded by the fact
that the UK is gradually tilting. The south east of the country is sinking
while the north west is rising.
This could make any future storms - and the resulting
flooding - even more devastating.
Martin Brayne says: "Rising sea levels caused by
global warming, together with increased amount of building on low-lying
coastal areas, mean that a storm as severe as the Great Storm would have
even more devastating effects, [though] the Thames Barrier would protect
What can be done?
"By sharing technologies, experience and resources,"
says BBC Meteorologist Helen Willetts, "We can hopefully lower the
greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the threat of global climate change.
"Choose clean energy options where available, such
as wind, solar and wave power, these do not emit greenhouse gases and
"Individually, we can recycle material, insulate
our homes, take public transport and think about energy efficiency in
And it is clear that whatever can be done, should be done.
One thing is for certain, nobody wants to experience the
horrors of 1703 again!