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stewfox

October 16Th 1987

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It was called the worse storm (particulary down South) since 1703

I was a student down at Portsmouth Poly at the time

I didn't sleep all night. I was really worried the wind would cause the windows to smash at my Student digs.

On the way to studies by bike it wasn't long before I saw the first tree had fallen across the road. There was also mention of looting in North End (Portsmouth).

My parents (lived in Surrey) had slept through the whole night ! Sevenoaks became 1 oaks.

I dont think the North and particulary Scotland were so greatly effected.

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Remember it well, even though it was 23 years ago! I was in east Suffolk at the time and had never heard wind like it or seen damage like it, it was an unbelievable night. The evening was so warm and quiet then in the early hours you could hear the roar of the wind approaching and then the storm hit during the early hours.

storm_ani_300x228.gif

It was mainly the far southeast that was hit badly, the coasts of Suffolk, Essex, Kent and Sussex:

storm87_affected_counties.gif

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It wasn't as bad in Cornwall as the 1990 storm although it was bad enough. I was working that night and have vivid memories of doing a back somersault (with tuck) attempting to launch the very unwieldy Met. Office sonde without giving it a knock. It had a tendency to pack up if you breathed too heavily on it let alone bouncing it into a hedge.

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Wasn't that the storm which was supposed to go into northern France? :whistling:

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Yes. I believe Michael Fish got an unfair amount of stick for that forecast (although the comment "there was going to be a hurricane on the way- don't worry, there isn't" was in hindsight asking for trouble). The forecast models, which were still in their infancy those days, had originally suggested that a severe storm could hit south-east England but had then shifted the depression into France (indeed Michael Fish's forecast specifically mentioned this shortly after the infamous quote; "most of the strongest winds will be in the English Channel and into France").

I recall that there was also a subsequent forecast that didn't predict the monster storm, by Bill Giles if I remember rightly.

The January 1990 one caused more damage and affected a wider area but it doesn't get mentioned as much- Philip Eden wrote that he suspected it was because it was predicted accurately beforehand, but in my opinion it's probably more because it didn't affect the Home Counties as heavily. But in the Home Counties it was a very different story- I've seen quite a few Youtube videos of that windstorm- frightening-looking really!

Thanks to Paul B for that image sequence- I've never seen it in that much detail before, and was always interested to see the progression between 00Z and 12Z.

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there are all manner of 'titbit's' around on the web, the one below is interesting as its from the boss of a rival commercial organisation, not at the time renowned for supporting the Met office.

One of the very interesting facts to emerge from the multi national investigation into the storm held at the Met O College (I was a tiny part of about 100 meteorologists from various countries including the UK), was that the classic, as its now called, satellite picture of the rapid deepening was seen by the duty team doing research into this phenomena. They went off duty at 5pm that evening without making comment to the senior forecaster! In those days there was no routine detailed satellite direct output that we see now even on the web. This in spite of the fact that the weather ships had been withdrawn as a cost saving matter by the participating nations, USA, UK, Norway, France etc. One code name Kilo, on station around 45N 15-16W, would have been in exactly the right spot to forewarn!

As to Michael his remark of course, so often misquoted, was not about the storm about to affect the south of England. Possibly not the best remark to make at the time but then hindsight is not something any of us have! If you search the Met O web site there is a map showing the strength of winds over England and Wales, showing clearly where the highest gusts where. Anglesey, often one of the windiest places had just over 40 mph gusts, it was almost calm by their standards yet total mayhem reigned further south. I have never seen so many priority signals as arrived overnight at RAF Valley Met office.

the link below is well wort a read from the RMetSoc

http://www.rms.com/P...orm_of_1987.pdf

and this link to the Met O output for schools has the map I mentioned in it

http://www.metoffice...reat_storm.html

flash.gif Computer Weather Forecasting

Robert Stroud <robert%[email protected]>Fri, 23 Oct 87 15:11:56 +0100 The following letter was published in The Independent on Wednesday 21 October.It comes from Norman Lynagh who is the managing director of Noble DentonWeather Services. I have no idea whether he is offically associated withthe Meteorological Office but his letter seems to be a clear and accuratestatement of what went wrong with the forecasting of last weeks gales.It also contains some interesting insights into the state-of-the-artin weather forecasting. The bottom-line seems to be the familiar GIGO.Robert Stroud, Computing Laboratory, University of Newcastle upon TyneARPA robert%[email protected] UUCP ..!ukc!cheviot!robert * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Reproduced without permission from The Independent, Wednesday 21 Oct 87, p. 19Copyright © Newspaper Publishing PLC 1987Dear Sir,The Met Office has come under a great deal of criticism as a result of itsfailure to predict the severe storm in SE England last Friday morning. Someof what has been said is accurate but a great deal has been unfair criticism.Despite what has been said by many people, it was not until about 8pm thatit was really apparent that something out of the ordinary was developing.Even at that stage it was not at all certain that exceptionally strong windswould hit SE England. It was only an increasing threat. By about 11pm it wascertain that a storm of unusual severity would hit the SE.There have been reports from various sources that warning had been givenby other meteorological services several days before the event. This is onlyhalf true and, in any case, the Met Office was one organisation which didgive such a warning.Several of the most powerful meteorological computers, including those at theMet Office in Bracknell and the European Centre for Medium Range WeatherForecasting at Reading, predicted five days in advance that there would bea major storm somewhere in the region of southern England or northern Francetowards the weekend. In broadscale terms, this prediction continued each dayafter that, but the state-of-the-art in weather forecasting is such that itwas impossible to predict in any detail either the severity of the stormor precisely when it would strike.The depression which caused the storm had existed for several days beforeit struck in SE England. Indeed, it was giving force 11 winds NE of the Azorestwo to three days earlier. However, during last Thursday, as it moved quicklyNE into the Bay of Biscay, the structure of the depression was far from clear.As Murphy's Law always seems to dictate in such situations, there were veryfew observations available in the vicinity of the depression and it was veryuncertain as to what was exactly happening in Biscay.As mentioned earlier, it was not until Thursday evening that the situationbecame clear and it became obvious that the SE was going to have a nightto remember.Meteorology now uses the most powerful non-military computers in existencebut the advances in the quality and quantity of input data have not kept upwith the computer technology. No matter how good the computer and the software,it will not do a very good job if it is given inaccurate input data.Summarising all the above, I do not think the Met office can be blamed forfailing to give a day or two's warning of a once-in-a-lifetime event.The state-of-the-art of weather forecasting is such that the way this stormdeveloped and the precise detail of its effects could not be forecast morethan a few hours in advance.What is more open to close scrutiny is why warnings to the public were notissued until after midnight. I think they could well have been issued threeor four hours earlier but that is with the benefit of hindsight and it isreally a question which only the Met Office can answer.Yours sincerely,Norman Lynagh, Managing director, Noble Denton Weather Services, London EC1

Here is the actual MetO fax chart!

post-4523-038056000 1287233320_thumb.jpg

wow, where you get that from ch?

over 20 years since I saw a copy of that in the Met O College

re this from TWS

The forecast models, which were still in their infancy those days,

not true even then UK Met, the models were already quite advanced although obviously nothing like as detailed as they are now. Not that, read my regular comments on rainfall output, that they are that much more accurate at imes than they were then.

ECMWF and the French model all predicted up to 24 hours ahead along with Met Fine Mesh a slightly more northern track, the problem for the senior man, along with the lack of actual data from the area and no sat data that evening, was that EC and UK altered the track a shade further south while the French one did the opposite. He then had to make a decision, based on 12z ouptut, as 18z runs were not then done as routine, on what track to advise all stations, including the BBC forecaster ( Mike). As said before hindsight is a wonderful gift IF we only had it. What it did cause was an input of money into Met to allow for a bigger and better computer, an upgrading of the satellite data being received in real time, along with the research being speeded up, and an improvement in their warning system into the UK infrastructure.

Edited by johnholmes

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Yes. I believe Michael Fish got an unfair amount of stick for that forecast (although the comment "there was going to be a hurricane on the way- don't worry, there isn't" was in hindsight asking for trouble). The forecast models, which were still in their infancy those days, had originally suggested that a severe storm could hit south-east England but had then shifted the depression into France (indeed Michael Fish's forecast specifically mentioned this shortly after the infamous quote; "most of the strongest winds will be in the English Channel and into France").

I recall that there was also a subsequent forecast that didn't predict the monster storm, by Bill Giles if I remember rightly.

The January 1990 one caused more damage and affected a wider area but it doesn't get mentioned as much- Philip Eden wrote that he suspected it was because it was predicted accurately beforehand, but in my opinion it's probably more because it didn't affect the Home Counties as heavily. But in the Home Counties it was a very different story- I've seen quite a few Youtube videos of that windstorm- frightening-looking really!

Thanks to Paul B for that image sequence- I've never seen it in that much detail before, and was always interested to see the progression between 00Z and 12Z.

I have an idea that they did a rerun on the more sophisticated models not that many years ago and it came out much nearer the actualitie. Also I believe the French model at the time wasn't actually far out. Cetainly the 1990 storm was much worse in the west country. Oops I've just realised JH has gone into this in much greater detail. Sorry John.

Edited by weather ship

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flash.gif Computer Weather Forecasting

Robert Stroud <robert%[email protected]>Fri, 23 Oct 87 15:11:56 +0100 The following letter was published in The Independent on Wednesday 21 October.It comes from Norman Lynagh who is the managing director of Noble DentonWeather Services. I have no idea whether he is offically associated withthe Meteorological Office but his letter seems to be a clear and accuratestatement of what went wrong with the forecasting of last weeks gales.It also contains some interesting insights into the state-of-the-artin weather forecasting. The bottom-line seems to be the familiar GIGO.Robert Stroud, Computing Laboratory, University of Newcastle upon TyneARPA robert%[email protected] UUCP ..!ukc!cheviot!robert * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Reproduced without permission from The Independent, Wednesday 21 Oct 87, p. 19Copyright © Newspaper Publishing PLC 1987Dear Sir,The Met Office has come under a great deal of criticism as a result of itsfailure to predict the severe storm in SE England last Friday morning. Someof what has been said is accurate but a great deal has been unfair criticism.Despite what has been said by many people, it was not until about 8pm thatit was really apparent that something out of the ordinary was developing.Even at that stage it was not at all certain that exceptionally strong windswould hit SE England. It was only an increasing threat. By about 11pm it wascertain that a storm of unusual severity would hit the SE.There have been reports from various sources that warning had been givenby other meteorological services several days before the event. This is onlyhalf true and, in any case, the Met Office was one organisation which didgive such a warning.Several of the most powerful meteorological computers, including those at theMet Office in Bracknell and the European Centre for Medium Range WeatherForecasting at Reading, predicted five days in advance that there would bea major storm somewhere in the region of southern England or northern Francetowards the weekend. In broadscale terms, this prediction continued each dayafter that, but the state-of-the-art in weather forecasting is such that itwas impossible to predict in any detail either the severity of the stormor precisely when it would strike.The depression which caused the storm had existed for several days beforeit struck in SE England. Indeed, it was giving force 11 winds NE of the Azorestwo to three days earlier. However, during last Thursday, as it moved quicklyNE into the Bay of Biscay, the structure of the depression was far from clear.As Murphy's Law always seems to dictate in such situations, there were veryfew observations available in the vicinity of the depression and it was veryuncertain as to what was exactly happening in Biscay.As mentioned earlier, it was not until Thursday evening that the situationbecame clear and it became obvious that the SE was going to have a nightto remember.Meteorology now uses the most powerful non-military computers in existencebut the advances in the quality and quantity of input data have not kept upwith the computer technology. No matter how good the computer and the software,it will not do a very good job if it is given inaccurate input data.Summarising all the above, I do not think the Met office can be blamed forfailing to give a day or two's warning of a once-in-a-lifetime event.The state-of-the-art of weather forecasting is such that the way this stormdeveloped and the precise detail of its effects could not be forecast morethan a few hours in advance.What is more open to close scrutiny is why warnings to the public were notissued until after midnight. I think they could well have been issued threeor four hours earlier but that is with the benefit of hindsight and it isreally a question which only the Met Office can answer.Yours sincerely,Norman Lynagh, Managing director, Noble Denton Weather Services, London EC1

Blimey John that takes me back a bit. I knew Nornan quite well in the early sixties when we were on weather ships together. He left and joined the Australian Met. Office in high dudgeon I believe, if my memory serves correctly, because the office wouldn't accept his Scottish Highers for a forecasting course. Well that was Norman's story and perhaps they did him a good turn because he did pretty well after that.

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[

wow, where you get that from ch?

over 20 years since I saw a copy of that in the Met O College

Great post and links, John, thanks.

I inherited this map as a gift when I bought my business 7 years ago. The vendor knew about my meteorology interest and kindly passed it on. I believe that he bought it in a charity auction.

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It was a case of 'nothing happened' in this part of the world, not that it was ever forecast to.

I remember getting up early to cycle to work that morning and hearing Ian McCaskill speaking in grave tones about the devastation in southern England and mentioning gusts of over 100 mph in Sussex and Kent.

There was talk of the storm moving north east, but not exactly where it would go, and it was with some trepidation that I set off that morning. In the event the wind never reached more than about f5 here.

It's hard to believe it was 23 years ago.

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Great post and links, John, thanks.

I inherited this map as a gift when I bought my business 7 years ago. The vendor knew about my meteorology interest and kindly passed it on. I believe that he bought it in a charity auction.

brilliant, what a superb gift

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I'm always reminded of this date....I was born in 85, in 86 Dennis Taylor won the world snooker infamously and then in 87, this.

It is odd that 2 of my favourite hobbies are Snooker and Weather Forecasting isn't it.

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i was living in Chelmsford at the time and i slept through the whole thing probably been out on the lash the night before as think it happened mid-week?

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i was living in Chelmsford at the time and i slept through the whole thing probably been out on the lash the night before as think it happened mid-week?

It was Thursday night/Friday morning.

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Read through thanks all was interesting read.

It is an event of my time that nothing has matched, altho the jan 1990 storm was massive, that was day time and being evacuated from school (im 32yrs) while windows broke in and sheds blew across the field and walls blown down, trees was a scary but facinating day! During the 87 storm my family was woken, it was so loud and the sustained winds incredible force, the sky lit continuely by powerlines, trees falling around the street, i remember my parents saying how the temp went up and was warm out at late evening, with gusty winds-the start of the storm..

Edited by nimbilus

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..the morning after we were due to go on holiday on the sussex coast! i remember it was around 7or8am still really gusty, the news was on, films of devastation, i looked at our garden it was wrecked, we didnt have trees in ours. That day we actually went for the holiday journey! my parents proberly knew we would end up coming back, we did! our local river was on the road, just got though it i dont think it was more than a few ince deep, we had violent downpours, trees blocking everwhere..The amazing sunset that night warmed things up abit. When we did get to pagham harbour coast the bungalow was ok, the caravan park..devastated.

Edited by nimbilus

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