Sunday, October 15, 2017

Hurricane Ophelia vs. the Great Storm of 1987

It's 30 years since the Great Storm of 1987, which took place on the night of 15-16th October. It's uncanny that the first hurricane to reach Category 3 so far east is about to hit Ireland on the anniversary of the Great Storm.

I was living in a tower block in East London at the time and I remember the wind whipping up during the evening and the subsequent rather sickening and anxiety-producing *swaying* of the tower block as the wind hit it. Even so I managed to sleep and awoke in the morning to find every fence and billboard down and strewn across the streets. All over southern England, trees were down, including famous and ancient oaks such as six of the seven at Sevenoaks in Kent.  Specimens of rare and exotic trees in Kew Gardens were lost along with thousands of more prosaic town trees lining streets.  Gales reached 115 mph. It was not, however, a hurricane, as its formation didn't meet the criteria for such a thing.

I hadn't prepared for it, partly because the weathermen on the telly famously didn't warn us, and partly because you don't get hurricanes in the UK, so I had no idea wind could be so destructive.  Waking up to feel the astonishingly clean air (it had, after all, been completely refreshed over night) and see the devastation, I was taught a salutary lesson.

Now, exactly 30 years later, Storm Ophelia is about to make landfall in Ireland, and ready to go on over Northern Ireland, Scotland and Northern England. It will be weaker - a tropical storm rather than a hurrican - by the time it hits, but winds of 100 mph are expected. One hopes people have heeded the warnings because these things are destructive.

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