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  1. dobbiej

    The great storm of October 1987

    I remember it absolutely as if it were yesterday. I was just 18 in my last year at school and we lived on the top of Portsdown hill overlooking Portchester (near Portsmouth) and the Solent - rather exposed I guess. I specifically remember the forecast and thought it was over the top that someone called about a hurricane (how ironic in hindsight!) From about 9 pm the wind started to get up. The house was well built but one gust (around 10 pm) seemed almost to flex the walls. I was in a spare bedroom studying I think for mock A levels and remember this being something extreme even at that time. We often were exposed to gales up there but this one seemed to keep building. I went to bed around 11 pm with the wind still howling but still not exceptional. I then remember waking up at around 1 am with the most constant roar I'd ever heard, like an ongoing gust with no let up. I couldn't sleep from then until the morning. The bedroom windows upstairs were six foot double glazed sliding patio doors that opened up onto a balcony that wrapped round the house. I walked into my sister's room (she was at uni at the time) that faced the solent and could see it flex and bow several inches at the middle - thinking that at any minute this is going to shatter so I then went back to my room and hid under my covers. I then put the radio on and can't remember if I was listening at local or national news but then heard the reports starting to come in - basically of an increasing picture of widespread distruction. Nothing I'd ever heard of before. First there was reports of firecrew crushed by a tree, then eventually I was sure I heard the declaration of a regional disaster zone (I may have imagined that bit!) Finally at about 3 am the radio went off although we still had power - crackle so maybe the broadcast antennas were struggling at that time. By morning it was relatively calm and amazingly there was no damage to the house or the grounds wheras our neighbour lost 18 trees. I was at school in Portsmouth and could drive at that point, so more for 'the adventure' than anything else decided to try to get there by car. Immediately I had to go via a tortuous detour and could not believe the scale of the destruction. I saw plate glass shop windows shattered all over the road. I had to drive around a beach hut sitting in the middle of the coast road. At the Southsea sea front I couldn't see one tree standing and there were countless cars crushed under fallen trees. I had to go past one of the piers and saw bigger than bullet size holes in the glass veranda ceiling and only worked out what it must be when I saw similar holes in the windows of a single seater coach parked close by - I guessed it was pebbles being picked off the beach and thrown through the glass. What I saw next was amazing... a set of traffic lights nearly bent horizontal to the road. At this point it struck me what the full force of this wind must have been like in the early hours and thank god it was then and not the middle of the day. Finally, after negotiating a flooded part of Southsea common, I managed to get to school. I think those who managed to get there stayed there for about an hour to do damage checks on the building and then were allowed home.