Big storms compared: 1987 and 2013


The storm that battered parts of the UK on Sunday night and the early hours of Monday was one of the most powerful to hit Britain in recent years, with a maximum gust of nearly 100mph recorded in the Isle of Wight.

Four people were killed and about 600,000 suffered power cuts as the storm tore its way across the country. But how did it compare with the infamous Great Storm of 16 October 1987?

The 2013 storm developed to the south west of the UK on Sunday before tracking into the Bristol Channel in the early hours of Monday 28 October. Driven by a powerful jet stream, the storm passed across the Midlands and into the North Sea as the morning progressed.

Image caption,
Forecast showing wind and rain over the UK at 09:00

The 1987 storm began as a small disturbance along a cold front in the Bay of Biscay, just north of Spain, which quickly deepened into an area of very low pressure. As in 2013, a particularly strong jet stream contributed towards its rapid progression.

The 1987 storm is one the most severe the UK has suffered in recent decades.

The last storm of a similar magnitude occurred in 1703, and wind speeds in locations such as Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, were the highest ever recorded.

The loss of trees and woodland in southern England was particularly acute, with an estimated 15 million trees destroyed.

There were some positives, however, as the storm cleared many old and decaying trees.

A massive tree-planting programme was begun to replace the lost woodland, with the destruction of managed coniferous forest allowing some areas to be replanted with traditional native species.

In another unforeseen consequence, a number of wild boar also escaped captivity during the storm and went on to successfully breed in the wild, helping to re-introduce the species to the UK after a gap of 400 years.

Image caption,
Some 15 million trees were uprooted in the 1987 storm; far fewer fell this year, but some caused disruption.

Famous forecast

BBC weatherman Michael Fish famously failed to predict the severity of the 1987 storm, but other factors, including the lack of a weather ship in the Bay of Biscay, were identified by risk analysts Risk Management Solutions as contributing to the UK being caught by surprise. In contrast, the BBC's Nick Miller on 25 October warned this year's storm would "pack quite a punch".