At the mercy of the Great Storm

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Helping Others -

It was a night that any­one who ex­pe­ri­enced it will never forget. The Great Storm of 1987, as it was quickly dubbed, hap­pened overnight on Oc­to­ber 15-16, when an ex­cep­tion­ally bru­tal weather sys­tem caused winds to hit much of south­ern Eng­land and north­ern France.

It was the worst storm to hit Eng­land since the Great Storm of 1703 and was re­spon­si­ble for the deaths of at least 22 peo­ple in Eng­land and France com­bined (18 in Eng­land, sev­eral of those in Kent, and at least four in France).

Hur­ri­cane-force winds bat­tered Kent and the South East in what weather ex­perts de­scribed as a once in 200 years storm.

In a live BBC weather fore­cast broad­cast sev­eral hours be­fore the hur­ri­cane hit weather­man Michael Fish fa­mously said: “Ear­lier on to­day, ap­par­ently, a lady rang the BBC and said she heard that there was a hur­ri­cane on the way. Well don’t worry if you’re watch­ing, there isn’t.” How wrong he was! Most of the dam­age hap­pened be­tween 2am and 6 am on the morn­ing of Oc­to­ber 16, with winds reach­ing up to 110mph.

Fif­teen mil­lion trees were lost across the area af­fected by the storm.

National Trust prop­er­ties in Kent at Chartwell (Sir Win­ston Churchill’s for­mer home), Em­metts Gar­den and Toys Hill were in the eye of the storm, with thou­sands of trees up­rooted or badly dam­aged.

The National Trust Trees and Gardens Storm Dis­as­ter Ap­peal raised more than £3 mil­lion in the six weeks after the storm, with the money used for re­plant­ing and restora­tion work.

The Great Storm carved a swathe across south­ern Eng­land from the Wash to the River Test.

Many res­i­dents cow­ered in their beds as the storm passed over and rose to scenes of dev­as­ta­tion in­clud­ing fallen trees, bro­ken fences, dam­aged cars and slates stripped from roofs.

Many rail lines had to be closed be­cause of fallen trees and wrecked power lines.

Re­pairs cost bil­lions of pounds and took months, if not years, to com­plete. So what caused it? Well, a cold front in the Bay of Bis­cay was given im­mense power by the col­li­sion of warm air from Africa meet­ing cold air from the Arc­tic.

Where the two air masses met, a frontal sys­tem de­vel­oped, with the warm air be­ing forced to rise above the cold, cre­at­ing a drop in air pres­sure.

Large quan­ti­ties of wa­ter vapour con­densed to cloud pro­vid­ing an enor­mous re­lease of heat en­ergy, driv­ing the winds of the storm and deep­en­ing the cen­tral pres­sure. The deep de­pres­sion veered north along the north coast of Corn­wall and Devon, across the cen­tral south­ern mid­lands to the Wash, catch­ing the weather fore­cast­ers by sur­prise.

In Sevenoaks, six out of the seven trees at The Vine cricket ground, said to have given the town its name, came down. Later seven new ones were planted.

Sur­vey­ing the dam­age after the storm tore through the county overnight

Wye village hall collapsed

A fallen tree in Harville Road, Wye

Weather­man Michael Fish - how wrong he was!

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