At the mercy of the Great Storm
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!