Tuesday 16 October 2012

The Great Storm of 1987: My Memories

Today marks 25 years since the great storm of 1987. Friday the of 16th October 1987. Even as a six year old I have very vivid memories of this day because for different reasons, I had been looking forward to this day for quite a while.

During the early hours of the morning of the 16th, I remember being kept awake by the wind and the rain.  I remember the wind blowing a gale, the rain lashing down and the sound of branches crashing down from trees. I remember being annoyed because I really wanted to go to sleep so that I could wake up for the next day. At one point, there was a big crash and the power went completely out. Us children ran into my mother's room screaming as young spooked children do. My mum was scrabbling around, half asleep trying to find candles to provide some light, and we all slept in the same room as we listened to the weather raging around us.

The next morning, I was so excited and couldn't wait to get to school. My mum was listening to the weather on her battery radio as we had no power, which was advising people to stay inside and not leave the house. However, my Mum had to go to work as she worked at the local BT exchange, and there was absolutely no way that I was staying at home on such a big day, so we set off to school at usual.

As we left the house I remember seeing branches strewn all over the road and things that shouldn't be where they were meant to be. Everything was displaced and there were bits of toys, plant pots, and rubbish from peoples gardens laying in the middle of the street. We got in the car and started driving to school. As we got out of our estate, we encountered a traffic jam. A really big tree was completely blocking the road. I am pretty sure that we had to abandon the car as there was no way we could get through, and so my mum struggled with my sister in the buggy, against the wind, walking us to school. I was eager to get there as soon as possible because I absolutely did not want to miss the big event happening at school that day.

This event was a really big deal in our school. Everyone had been waiting in anticipation all week for Friday to come. We were all so excited, because today was the day that we were going to have a Theatre Company coming into school to perform a play and do a theatre workshop. To us children, this was an absolutely huge event. I rushed into the playground and we speculated excitedly about what the day would hold and what the theatre workshop would consist of. We also regaled each other with our tales about the storm the night before. To me, nothing was out of the ordinary, apart from a bit of wind and rain, it was going to be a totally routine school day, with the added excitement of the theatre visit on the top.

Instead of going to register, all of us went straight to assembly. I thought this was a bit odd. Our head teacher told us that some of the teachers couldn't get to school and so we would have children from different classes with us today. None of us minded. Then he told us the worst news as a six year old child that you could hear. The Theatre Group were no longer able to come and give a workshop, because they couldn't get to us, and as they were so booked up, they couldn't reschedule. The look of total devastation on everyone's face was apparent. Some of the children started crying and I felt pretty gutted too. The teachers didn't look very happy, but all they kept talking about was the storm, which was completely inconsequential to us kids. I remember that the teachers tried to make the rest of the day as fun as possible for us, but nothing is fun when something you have been expecting is taken away. We also weren't allowed outside due to something ridiculous called "health and safety" whatever that was.

When we got home we had no power again. Still mum managed to rustle up tea as always and I don't really remember much more.

Even though it seems trivial in relation to everything else that happened that day, these are my vivid, lasting memories of that day - the fact that the theatre company who we had been promised a visit from, did not turn up. When you are a child, your world is so small and insular that these trivial things are the upsets that you remember. Even though twenty two people lost their lives, fifteen million trees were destroyed, several hundred thousand people were left without power, and roads and public transport were in complete disarray, None of that is really of any great interest to a six year old child and the Theatre Company not attending seems much more important a loss.

The clean-up from the Great Storm of 1987 took a great deal of time and money. Thankfully, with the advances in technology, the Met Office are now able to predict weather with a much greater deal of accuracy than poor Michael Fish - who will be infamously remembered for his flippant remarks regarding reports of a hurricane.

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.

Do you remember the 1987 storm?

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