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Soho Square, central London
Your memories of the Great Storm
No one was blaming climate change twenty years ago when England was hit by the great storm in October 1987. They were blaming Michael Fish.
In his 15th October evening bulletin, the BBC weatherman brushed off a viewer's suggestion that a hurricane 'was on the way.' He assured everyone not to worry and said Spain and France would be bearing the brunt of the strong winds forming in the Atlantic. It has become the most famous weather broadcast in British TV history.
The morning after
Overnight, severe storms battered the British Isles, with the south of England particularly badly hit. In some areas winds reached 100 mph, although such speeds were not sufficiently widespread to be officially classed as a hurricane by the Met Office.
Eighteen lives were lost and hundreds more were injured. An estimated 15 million trees had been uprooted and hundred of thousands of homes were left without power. The clear-up and repairs would cost a billion pounds. It was the worst storm in living memory.
London did not escape from the storm's havoc. In Ealing alone, 600 people called the emergency services because their homes or cars had been struck by falling trees and debris.
Weatherman Michael Fish
Twenty years on
The passing of time has not been kind to the infamous Michael Fish bulletin. It has since transpired that he was referring to a hurricane in Florida and was trying to reassure someone who was flying out there on a holiday. However, it seems destined to be forever associated in the public's mind with the Great Storm of 1987.
What are your recollections of the Great Storm? Was your home damaged? Do you remember watching the Michael Fish bulletin? Send us your memories and photos and we'll publish a selection of them.
Alternatively, why not share your memories with the BBC's Memoryshare?
Here is a selection of memories that have already been posted in Memoryshare about the Great Storm.
"16th October 1987 was a very memorable day for me as it was the day I gave birth to my first child. I was already in the hospital when I went into labour the night before and a specialist was booked to give me an epidural - he was delayed at another part of the hospital and arrived soaking wet at 4am. As he gave me an injection in my back all the lights went out but thankfully the hospital generator kicked in almost immediately. My husband was at home and got a phone call from the hospital, he arrived around 5am having driven around fallen trees and broken traffic lights to get to me. By breakfast time some of the nurses were due to go off duty but they had to stay on as those midwives not living on site had problems getting to the hospital. My daughter was born just after 4pm, by then the weather had calmed down. I was anxious to phone my parents to let them know they had their first grandchild but unfortunately the phone lines were down where they were living and they received the news 2 days later."
"I was living at my present address in Norwich at that time. I woke up during the night to hear a real din from the wind which was really howling and whistling through all the buildings in our area plus various trees!
I put the radio on at that time and heard the warning not to travel unless you really needed to. As I had loads of work to do at my job in Thorpe Road I decided not to travel by double decker bus (they may have stopped running anyway) but walked to work.
I was frightened whilst walking as I was worried about trees or bits of buildings falling on me but I managed to arrived at work without incident.
The company I was working for at that time was an insurance company (the branch closed in 1995) and we had loads of claims afterwards!"
Register with Memoryshare
If you aren't already registered with the BBC, click on 'Add A Memory' on the right-hand side of the page to be taken through the registration process. Once you've added your basic details, you'll receive an e-mail which you'll need to send back to confirm your e-mail address.
As soon as your address is confirmed, you're free to add as many memories and comments as you'd like to share.
BBC Memoryshare is a new web service that will gradually piece together an intriguing People's History of Britain, based on your experiences.
With a timeline running from 1 January, 1900 onwards - you can post a memory or observation relating to any day. You can also comment on other people's memories.
Whether you want to write 25 words or 500, make your mark with Memoryshare.
Your emails and memories
My memories of the great storm begin with the build up to it the evening before. I remember waiting to meet a friend at Clapham Common tube station in the early evening and it being very windy, then suddenly the wind died down and disappeared.
That night I stayed over at a friend's house in Streatham and woke several times hearing a lot of banging on the roof as tiles were dislodged, but only realised the extent of the damage when I walked down to the main street to see many of the trees had been blown down and were blocking the road.
I walked back to my flat on Clapham park estate and it looked like a bomb had hit as many of the mature trees had blown down and one was blocking the entrance to one block of flats. There was no power or phone working and this was before the days of mobile phones, so I still thought this was a fairly local event.
I cycled across Clapham Common towards work in South Kensington and arrived a little shell shocked at the extent of the damage - trees everywhere, bits of buildings, scaffolding from building sites. When I got there I was obviously very late but ready to explain what had happened (I still hadn't clocked how widespread the storm had been) and was met by my line manager who I thought was going to tell me off. In fact he greeted me with the news that my friend Steve had phoned and said not to worry as he was ok. This made be extremely anxious - "why would he not be?" I asked.
It only really hit me later that evening when I watched the news on tv how bad it all was, and how disorientating. Even though I was in the middle of all this chaos, I and many of the other Londoners around me just kept trying to go on to work as if nothing had happened.
I am the only person in the whole of the UK who was completely unaware of the storm.
I was working for Watford Football Club in the marketing department at the time and I had been given loads of work to input onto the computer in impossible timescales, so I was working all the hours - leaving for work at 5.30 am in the morning, I noticed some trees were down, but I managed to get to work (Slough to Watford) go into work for just before 6.30 am and locked myself in the computer room and started inputting! About 9.30 people started to arrive at work saying what terrible journeys they had had, how terrible the storm had been - I had slept through the storm, and not really noticed the trees - then looked at the football ground and there were hordings down....
PS I managed to finish the work and as a reward was invited to a dinner which Elton John was supposed to be at at the Grimsdyke Hotel - sadly he didn't turn up but I think sent some nice wine instead
I was about twelve or thirteen years old in 1987 and my memory of The Great Storm is waking up in the early hours of the morning and staring out into the blackness to see branches and traffic cones flying about in the wind. It woke everybody else in the house and we all watched the exciting if somewhat spooky spectacle that played before us BUT what was the most annoying thing about the situation was that my Mum still insisted that I go to school that morning. JESUS! Wasn't it bloody obvious that my school, like every other bloody school would be shut that day.
In 1987 I was living in a shared house in Leconfield Avenue, Barnes, just off the Upper Richmond Road. It was like a student house, except that none of us were students! I must have slept very soundly on the night of October 15th because I never heard anything of the great storm. However I got the fright of my life when I looked out of the bedroom window the next morning because the tree in the front garden had fallen right across my bike.
If it had been a normal motorcycle, with a 30inch or even a 3ft seat height, it would have been very badly damaged and probably written off completely, but fortunately it wasn't. It was a prototype bike known as The Flying Banana, a unique hub centre steered feet first motorcycle that was decades ahead of its time which I'd already written about at great length in the magazine Motorcycle Sport. It had a car-style seat that was only 15 inches off the ground so the tree just sat across it, fitting neatly into the space above the seat and did no damage to the bike whatsoever. My beloved Flying Banana had been miraculously spared and a couple of weeks later I raced it at Silverstone for the second time.
I was working for an interior landscaping company & my colleague & I were doing a job in Ipswich. A tree fell into the guest house trapping a woman in the bedroom & she had to be rescued by four men, who struggled to open the bedroom door against the wind coming into the building. We couldn't hear ourselves speak in the building without shouting into each other's ears. The wind sounded like an express train outside, it was the most frightening thing I have ever experienced.
In the morning we had a tree jammed under the Luton van. Dustbins had been smashed against walls & had crumpled like airgun pellets & everywhere were fallen trees, fallen chimneystacks & wrecked vehicles but we passed a conservatory/greenhouse showroom site & not one of the conservatories appeared to be damaged!
On the way home up the A1 we had to wait in queues of traffic while the fallen trees were sawn up into moveable pieces. It is not something I would like to experience again!
I had just started college and had been really burning the candle at both ends. I came home early that evening feeling pretty exhausted. I pretty much went straight to bed and briefly woke up at about 4 am thinking it sounded a bit windy outside. I got up the next morning not realising anything had gone on. All I saw were a few trees that had fallen down so I was a disappointed because I'd missed it all.
Thomas Dyton, East Acton
I was 16 years old at the time and I remember watching the weather that evening and remember all too clearly Michael Fish saying, bla bla not to worry the rest of Europe will get the worst.
Well, as we know, in fact south England got it bad. I was living in London, Petherton Road, N5 at the time and there were plenty of trees on that stretch of the road. I watched the weather that night as the next morning I had a tennis match with my old mate, Anthony. Well with great amazement I did not hear the storm as I slept Like a log but the next morning when I looked out my window, I thought I was in War torn London.
The mere fact that the trees were uprooted, few cars lying on its roofs and unprecedented property damage, I honestly thought the IRA had let off a big bomb of some sort. I never saw nothing like it before except for on Hollywood movies but it scared the living daylights out of me.
Now I know Michael Fish is now a retired weatherman, and may his legacy blow on forever. If he happens to read the weather in heaven one day, hell will probably freeze over. Thatcher was in power too, how glum those days were.
I can remember the October 1987 storm as if it were yesterday.
At the time I was a London Taxi Driver, working nights. I started work at about 7.00pm (I liked to listen to ‘The Archers’ as I was on my way into town from Goffs Oak in Herts)
All evening we were being warned over the Radio Taxis radio that conditions were appalling, but that there was plenty of work if you could get into town. I worked non-stop from 7.00 till about 3.00am, taking people home all over the place. As I drove up Shaftsbury Avenue passing the Cambridge Theatre, a scaffold pole fell from the theatre, narrowly missing my taxi, and a couple of other taxis along side me.
It was at this precise moment that I realised how foolish I was being, and decided to go home to my wife and children. Very few people had mobile phones in those days, and I was no exception, so had no idea how worried my wife Susan was.
I drove home, and after managing to miss falling trees, and fallen fences, was driving the last mile up Goffs Lane, when I was stopped by a fallen tree, completely cutting off my journey home. There were a couple of home owners standing around in their pyjamas, when a police panda car arrived. The two policemen in the car jumped out, and took a chain saw out of the boot.
Between the two home owners, plus the two policemen and me, we managed to cut up the tree, move the larger pieces to the side of the road, and I then made my way home.
I'm still driving a cab, but haven't worked after 7.00 in the evening ever since.
McDonalds in Brixton used to be a Radio Rentals shop back in 1987 and the morning after the storm when all the large storefront windows were broken, every single appliance from the window display had mysteriously disappeared, possibly sucked up by the vast power of the hurricane and dumped into various houses in the area....
I was a police inspector stationed at Chiswick and living in Hounslow. I can remember the weather forecast that evening. I clearly remember the storm during the night and looking out of the rear bedroom window and watching a garden shed travelling serenely on its journey across the rear gardens. I got up at 5am to travel to work in Chiswick as the Early Turn duty Officer. It was quite a journey, roof tiles across road, walls collapsed and tress down. Following parade I posted a van patrol of six Pcs(yes we had enough in those days to assist whoever and whatever they could.The local authority (Hounslow) were already at full stretch as were the local firestations .So armed with saw and axe or two ropes and a tow chain this little group worked like trojans all of their shift and as I recall some overtime as well helping out. Health and safety??? I don't think so. We were there to help the public that's what it was all about.
During the night of the storm, around 3:00 my wife and I were up, the street was blowing up and down and the sounds of roof tiles failing could be clearly heard. The power had gone off and we were in the kitchen, lit by candles, when my son Tom (3 at the time) appeared and asked "whose birthday is it?"
Mum and I were meant to move house on the 16th October 1987. At the time we were living in a cul-de-sac in Shirley, Croydon. I was kicking up fuss in the morning as I didn't want to go to school, I wanted to help move house. Mum decided she was going to take me to school in the car, so that she could sort everything out without me getting under her feet. Well, we managed to get to the bottom of the road before having to reverse back up! We were completely trapped! Two magnificent Oak trees had stood on either side of the entrance to the close, but both had fallen, meaning that not only could we not get out of the close, no-one else could get up or down the road that led to it! Needless to say, I didn't go to school that day and the removal van was five hours late!
I have often wondered why Michael Fish did not defend the weather forecasters more strongly after the storm. Habitual viewers of the Sunday Country File program may recall that the storm was forecast already on that Sunday of the storm week. I believe it was Michael himself who presented the prediction of a big event. Yet I have never heard a word about this in all the ensuing discussions over the years.
Professor Ulf Ehrenmark
I slept through it, but on the way to Regent's Park tube, I found a tree right across Park Crescent. On the way to Causton Street I found branches and leaves everywhere. A friend who lives at Sevenoaks told me that there were not seven oaks there anymore! ! There were trees up throughout the country, including Regent's Park. It was quite surprising how few roots these great trees seemed to have.
Why on earth doesn't anyone point out that it wasn't a hurricane because such storms are generated in the tropics.
Mr Dave Starmer, Essex
I keep hearing about poor trees being uprooted – however Paul Woodham my son Sam’s best school 8 year old pal was the eldest of a group of very young children left to make their own way back through woodland as trees were down in the road blocking their school coach reaching their homes in Seer Green, and an old oak came down and killed dear Paul...
Bob Musk, Beaconsfield
I awoke in the early hours of the morning to eerie silence, then came a roar like a jet engine and the storm hit. By a miracle, the small saplings along the canal outside my house bent their heads ninety degrees in the wind, but did not snap. I was surprised, too, that the roof didn't blow off.
In the morning I took a group of students on a coach trip to Norwich. As we travelled east we saw uprooted trees and high-sided lorries in ditches, and thousands of twisted branches strewn across the roads. One large house had been nearly severed in two by a huge oak which had sliced through the roof and was deeply embedded in the wall.
Mike Mills, Wapping
I was working as a milkman during this period and usually got up around 4am.
It was decided we all went home and would await a phone call from the dairy when it was discovered that we could be on the move with any trees cleared from roads
Mid morning and we were on the move and in the daylight it was clear how trees and bushes had been snapped where they stood and in some cases uprooted.
Speaking for myself I suppose I managed 90% of customers...getting them their "daily delivery"...the other 10%....put it this way at the age of 40(my age in 1987) I had too put clambering over felled trees on the back burner...admitting defeat!
We were lucky where we lived but one sad memory of a guy travelling towards Gatwick Airport,planning a holiday when a tree came down as he passed in his car...staff at the local Post Office Sorting Office who were working nights heard the crash...rushed out too see what they could do...sadly nothing as the size and weight was too much for any amount of human beings
Credit must go to the Council who made "tree blocked" roads accessable in a short space of time with all OUR customers receiving their "daily quota" on the Saturday
Electricity was quickly restored as well
Even today...twenty years on as one journeys towards Banstead there is still evidence of the felled trees...this was the decision..too leave them where they fell...too expensive too cut them up and remove them
So in 2007 would we adapt in a great storm as we did in 1987...AND CARRY ON AS BEST WE COULD?
The day of the hurricane was our daughter's 6th birthday. Her nanny had made some cakes to take to school for her classmates and she was very excited! We woke up in the night to experience the storm - both children slept right through. In the morning, my husband has his doubts as to whether or not she should go to school - we live in Waltham Abbey and had to travel to Loughton through Epping Forest - but Amanda begged him to take her - she so desperately wanted to be at school for her birthday and to take all these cakes! So - off they went - my husband had to stop several times to move trees out of the road - at one time it took four men to move one which was particularly huge. Eventually they made it to the school gates - to a notice saying that school was closed for the day - oh dear!! So they came all the way back home - we ate as many of the cakes as we could (my husband's comment that the cakes probably wouldn't last until the next day didn't go down too well with his mother-in-law!!)
I was 13 and at boarding school near Dorking. A tree smashed through part of the rather weak building. Luckily no one was hurt.
In October 1987 I was a Police Traffic Department Sergeant in Surrey Police. I had 17 years service at that time and I was night duty cover Traffic Sergeant responsible for the entire county's roads and motorways M3, M25 and M23.
At that time we had three Traffic garages in the County and part of my role was to visit the crews on duty at those garages. Having started duty at 2300hrs I travelled along the M25 to visit the crews at Godstone in our new Jag patrol car. I remember that it was quite windy and that it was quite difficult to keep the car in a straight line.
Having seen the crews at Godstone and also the people on duty in the motorway control centre I made my way to the main control room at HQ in Guildford. I hadn't been there very long when we started to get a lot of 999 calls from around the county of trees down on roads and houses. All of a sudden all the electricity failed and we were left in darkness. The emergency generator failed to start automatically.
We after a short while managed to get it going and have some light to see by. By now, the county's roads were getting in a bad way and I decided to try to make for Chertsey where I was based. I couldn't get down Sandy Lane as it was completely blocked with fallen trees, but managed to get out of HQ via The Ridges and make my way through Guildford. On the gyratory system there was a lot of building work going on and 8'x4' sheets of boarding were being blown aroung the streets. Surprisingly I managed to get all the way to the other side of Woking to the 6 crossroads roundabout and was waved down by a man on a motorbike to say that Woodham Lane, towards Addlestone was blocked. It was now about 0300hrs. I decided to try the A320 towards Chertsey though Ottershaw as being my last hope. I knew that the roads through Chobham and Byfleet were blocked. I got as far as just past Durnford Bridge and came across a huge tree blocking the road. I turned around and tried a small lane called Martyrs Lane. I didn't hold out much hope as it runs through woodland but although the road was strewn with small branches and leaves I managed to get through. The journey then to Addlestone where I live took me an hour and a half although no more than 3 miles.
I had to chop and saw my way through trees that were across the road, driving over footpaths to get through. I have never been so frightened. I was on my own, it was pitch dark and I was surrounded by woodland. The wind was very strong and I could hear branches snapping off and trees crashing down. The problem was that I couldn't see them. Eventually I got to Addlestone and wanted to check on my house as my wife and two young daughters were in bed. I live in a tree lined cul-de-sac and in my next door neighbours garden was a huge cypressus tree that I was concerned about. I managed to get there, the house was in darkness and the tree was still standing. (It came down in the storm of 1991 and damaged my garage and house!) However I could see movement at the end of the road and when I got there I could see that a number of mature oak trees had blown down on two houses. The corner was taken out of one house where there was an elderly lady and the house next door also had a corner taken out.
Amazingly in that bedroom there was a baby asleep in a cot who wasn't even scratched. It was three months before the people could move back in, as there were two huge splits down the front of the house. I could smell gas and we managed to get the Fire Brigade to come along to investigate. I eventually got back to my garage at Chertsey around 0715hrs. I phoned my wife to tell her not to go to work or to take the children to school and she asked why? She had slept through the lot. I went home and with the help of neighbours and my father in law we set about trying to clear some of the devastation at the end of the road.
We worked solidly until about 1500hrs when we now had some semblance of order and a huge pile of branches. We discovered that there were 5 oak trees down and that they had completely covered a number of cars. Two houses had been severley damaged. Fortunately no one had been injured. I needed to go to bed then as I had been up nearly 24hrs and had to report for work again that night at 2300hrs.
There is a lovely mural in Kew Gardens created from trees that blew down in the storm. Well worth a visit
I live in Houston, TX USA and spend a great of time working in London. Co-workers told me the story while I was there a few weeks ago mid-August. I don't recall what triggered the conversation, but I was amazed at how easily everyone recalled the story.
I remember it well. Living in Kent at time & it was hit quite badly. Couldn't get to work in London. My abiding memory is of having no electricity & scores of fallen trees.
I was working as a student nurse at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital. The morning after the storm night, I walked from the Rockefeller Nurses' Home (beside University College Hospital) past Euston railway station to the EGA. Many small trees were broken or uprooted in the grassy area in front of Euston. On my ward at the EGA, night staff and patients had all had an uncomfortable night - power cuts meant the emergency power system kept kicking in, meaning that machines restarted and bleeped and doors kept opening and closing. So, patients spent much of the day napping.
I spent the weekend, as planned, walking with a friend in the Lake District, far away from the destruction. As we only got about 1 weekend in 4 off work, I couldn't waste it, so was very relieved that trains were running normally by Friday evening.
During the 1987 Hurricane I was a District Nurse in Hackney. Believe it or not, slept through the whole thing. Woke to the wind howling at 6am. My sister phoned and told us what had happened, no lights or heating. Wind howling so left for work an hour earlier. Although dark, saw trees lying across the road.
Would you believe that we, like quite a few other people, slept right through it? We lived in Wallington at the time and were aware when we went to bed that it was a bit windy but apart from that we were totally oblivious to everything. It was only when we woke up in the morning that we looked out and saw the havoc that had been caused, with trees down everywhere. No houses had been damaged, although we lost 3 ridge tiles. I was able to drive to work nearby but others were quite unable to negotiate fallen trees on their way to the office.
The next time there was a hurricane we were a bit more aware of what could happen and were quite nervous!
last updated: 07/01/2008 at 16:36