The 16th October is the 22nd anniversary of ‘The Great Storm’ of 1987. This day England experienced the strongest gales ever, with winds reaching a staggering 115mph. Eighteen people were injured and many homes were damaged. It was a sad and shocking time and to this day, many remember it like it was yesterday.
Paul Smith worked for Harwich Lifeboat Station in Felixstowe, which was a badly affected area. He was on call that night. He described how there was a boat of “Tamil Refugees which had been stranded and a prison ship called ‘The Earl William,’ me and the crew had to rescue them.” Paul and his team worked around the clock to ensure people were safe, despite there being damage to their own homes, “We all pulled together. Your first instinct is to save lives, not what damage there is to your roof.” Amazingly, there was no damage to the lifeboat station and none of the crew was injured, despite the many obstacles. “It was hard to steer the boat as there was debris, sunken barges and even whole trees in the water.” Paul still works at the Lifeboat station today.
It wasn’t all sorrow as the storm did change the whole idea of planting. Andy Jesson was head gardener at Sheffield Park Garden. “Over a quarter of trees and shrubs (around 2,200) were lost. Volunteers and the army were used to help with the cleanup programme.” The storm allowed them to introduce a more effective way of planting. “We learnt it is more important to understand what is going on underground.” This has encouraged root development, and common practice is now far more successful.
Rural areas such as Suffolk were badly affected and some were even cut off from the rest of the functioning world. Stonepitt Farm Cottage was completely blocked. Martin Clews explained, “There was no telephone for a month and no electricity for two weeks.” For a well established society and with the advances in technology, this was very extreme and meant living in the Stone ages, ironic given the name of the...