For those old enough to remember, it was a night they will never forget. Twenty-five years ago, the south of England was hit by the worst hurricane the country has ever seen.
Homes and businesses were battered by winds as high as 134mph and trees that had survived for hundreds of years were ripped out of the ground and tossed around like matchsticks.
People saw their livelihoods smashed to smithereens. Roofs were ripped off houses and cars crushed by falling masonry. Boats were lifted up and carried away in the air by nature’s tremendous force.
When people woke and ventured out the next morning, it was a scene of devastation. John Hill, owner of Funlands on Hayling Island seafront, recalls: ‘It looked like the end of the world.’
But this was no movie set. It was harsh reality. As well as the scale of the damage that had to be tackled, 18 people had tragically lost their lives
Today on pages 8 and 9, we tell the story of that frightening night, when people could only cower indoors and wait for the powerful winds to subside.
Of course, the Great Storm will always be associated with BBC weather forecaster Michael Fish. He became infamous after saying on TV, a few hours before the storm began: ‘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.’
How wrong he was. And that’s what people remember about that night – the fact there was no warning from forecasters and we were left totally unprepared.
We’d like to think that the art of weather forecasting has improved greatly in the ensuing quarter-of-a-century.
As a nation, we still sit glued to the TV to find out what the weather holds in store. It’s information that we need to be accurate to enable us to plan ahead.
We trust that meteorologists will use all the technology at their disposal to keep us well-informed weather-wise – and that we are never again put in the alarming position of 1987.