It began with dustbin lids clattering around as they do in any strong wind.
It ended with the south reeling from a hurricane-force storm which devastated homes and businesses, ripped up trees by the million and dramatically changed the landscape in a few hours of freak frenzy.
The Great Storm came 25 years ago today in the early hours of October 15, 1987, when winds hitting southern England peaked at more than 120mph. It was the region’s worst storm for 300 years.
In total 18 people died, including a man in Petersfield whose car was crushed by a falling tree.
Cars were also wrecked by falling masonry, ancient and noble trees were snapped and uprooted like brittle twigs, boats were tossed around the shore like toys in a bath. And above all, homes were shattered and battered by the fury of the winds as they screamed through the darkness.
At the headquarters of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, more than 50 officers were brought in to deal with appeals for help from bewildered and frightened people. Other staff were called from their beds to man phones in the control room.
Firefighters in West Sussex turned out to nearly 1,000 emergency calls in what was the busiest night in the brigade’s history.
At Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, 20 patients were evacuated from a ward when a huge tree threatened to demolish a building. At St Mary’s Hospital, Milton, Portsmouth, 16 patients were evacuated from a surgical ward when a roof collapsed during the storm.
Trees on the historic Ladies’ Mile avenue across Southsea Common were uprooted while in the nearby naval base boats were washed out to sea, the gangplank of HMS Newcastle collapsed and the survey ship HMS Endurance put to sea to avoid trouble.
Dozens of villages in Hampshire and West Sussex were left without power and some of them did not get it back for more than two weeks.
The morning after the night before: Special report in The News tomorrow of the after effects of The Great Storm