As another fierce storm crosses the Atlantic heading towards our small island another storm is remembered. In this earlier post I recalled the day.
During the evening of 15 October 1987 I watched the next day’s weather forecast in preparation for attending a job interview in Marchwood, close to Southampton on the channel coast. Winds were very light over most parts of the UK. A depression was drifting slowly northwards over the North Sea off eastern Scotland. Over the Bay of Biscay, a depression was developing. The evening forecaster jokingly reported, “Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way; well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t, but having said that, actually, the weather will become very windy, but most of the strong winds, incidentally, will be down over Spain and across into France.”

Next morning I was up early and on the road heading for the A34. This remember was when the M40 was a mere flicker in the minds of transport planners! As I headed south it began to rain and by the time I was approaching the Oxford bypass the wind was slamming the downpour into the side of the car which made steering in a straight line, difficult to say the least. At a traffic island, approaching Newbury, a tree had been uprooted and traffic was diverted around the right hand side of the island. On the other side of the town I stopped for breakfast at a ‘greasy cafe’ for a ‘bacon buttie’. The Television above the counter was showing the devastation across the area that I was travelling. I was but a short distance from my destination and decided to continue and be there at the appointed time.

The storm had made landfall in Cornwall, before tracking northeast towards Devon and then over the Midlands, going out to sea via The Wash. The strongest gusts, of up to 100 knots (190 km/h; 120 mph), were recorded along the south-eastern edge of the storm, hitting mainly Sussex, Essex and Kent. The Royal Sovereign lighthouse some 6 miles off Eastbourne recorded wind speeds on their instruments pegged at 110mph – off scale high!! The storm caused substantial damage over much of England, downing an estimated 15 million trees including six of the seven famous oak trees in Sevenoaks, historic trees in Kew Gardens, and Scotney Castle and most of the trees making up Chanctonbury Ring. Fallen trees blocked roads and railways and left widespread structural damage to buildings. Several hundred thousand people were left without power, which was not fully restored until more than two weeks later. Local electric utility officials later said they lost more wires in that one storm than in the entire preceding decade. At sea, as well as many small boats being wrecked, a ship capsized at Dover and a Sealink cross-channel ferry, the MV Hengist, was driven ashore at Folkestone. 18 people were killed; London lost power for the first time since the Blitz and £1.9 billion of damage was caused.

The départements of Finistère, Morbihan, Côtes-d’Armor and Ille-et-Vilaine in Brittany, and the départements of Manche and part of Calvados in Normandy were the areas in France most affected. Following a line from Morbihan and Rennes to Deauville. 1.79 million homes were left without electricity supply and water, and a quarter of Brittany’s forest was destroyed. The total damage was estimated at £2.4 billion.

Despite my determination to reach Marchwood on time neither other candidates nor the interview panel did. By lunchtime I was back on the return journey awaiting another call to attend the rearranged interview. Again a few weeks later I made the journey south I had a good interview but was not offered the position.


2 thoughts on “I WAS THERE !!

  1. There was the most terrific thunderstorm the night before. We lay in bed and watched the lightning out over the sea. At 4am we were woken by a loud roaring and shattering glass. Rocks were blowing off the ploughed field on the hillside above our house and smashing into the nursery wall and windows. We carried the children into our bedroom on the opposite side of the house. We couldn’t open some of the doors because of the pressure. A mile away a relative’s hermetically double glazed and centrally heated flat built up such pressure the windows exploded ejecting their TV set out of the window and through the roof of a car in the street below. Another relative reported seeing a scaffold galloping down the street like some fantastic stampeding dinosaur and crashing through the window of the local Co-op. A friend walked to work across a tree lined park. His department couldn’t run without power so he was sent home forty minutes later – the avenue of trees he had walked down on the way in were all laying on the ground.
    Taking the bus in to town some hours later I was horrified to see the slates off the school roof had fallen and shards were embedded like knives into the tarmac of the playground. We could only be thankful it hadn’t happened five hours later when the children would have been in the playground.

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