Case Study – 1987 Storm

1987 Storm – Case Study


  • October 1987 started off fine and dry but quickly became unsettled and wet. In the days before the storm low pressure lingered off the west of Ireland, producing spells of wet weather across Britain.
  • Warm air from Africa met cold air from the Atlantic Ocean, causing an intense depression
  • The depression developed over the Bay of Biscay on 15th October and moved northwards
  • Weather forecasters thought it wouldn’t reach England, but by midnight it had changed course and moved towards the south coast – most people went to bed
    without knowing that there would be very severe winds overnight.
  • It was in fact not a hurricane, but a depression.
  • Winds were over 100 km/hour and on the coast in
  • Hampshire, Sussex and Kent winds reached gale force 11
  • The central pressure was 953 mb
  • There were rapid changes in temperature as the warm front passed over eg. in Farnborough 8.5°C to 17.6°C in 20 minutes.
  • By 9am the storm had passed over land and reached the North Sea


  • Winds gusting at up to 100mph
  • 19 people were killed in England
  • 15 million trees were blown down, including 6 of the famous oaks trees in Sevenoaks
  • Many fell on to roads and railways, causing major transport delays
  • Others took down electricity and telephone lines, leaving 5 million homes were without electricity.
  • A Channel ferry was blown ashore near Folkestone
  • Numerous small boats were wrecked or blown away, with one ship being blown over and a Channel ferry was blown ashore near Folkestone.
  • 18 lives in England were claimed
  • Trees blocked roads and railways
  • Power lines were taken down
  • Caravan parks were wrecked
  • Falling masonry and trees damaged and destroyed cars and houses
  • Fire brigade had 6000 calls in 24 hours
  • Buildings collapsed
  • A cross-channel ferry, the MV Hengist, beached at Folkestone
  • A ship capsized at Dover
  • Cost £15 billion in insurance claims, so premiums went up for everyone next year
  • Fallen trees provided new habitats for some animals
  • Some plants benefited as there was more light on the forest floor allowing them to grow


  • During the evening of 15 October, radio and TV forecasts mentioned strong winds but indicated heavy rain would be the main feature, rather than strong wind. By the time most people went to bed, exceptionally strong winds hadn’t been mentioned in national radio and TV weather broadcasts.
  • Warnings of severe weather had been issued, however, to various agencies and emergency authorities, including the London Fire Brigade.
  • Perhaps the most important warning was issued by the Met Office to the Ministry of Defence at 0135 UTC, 16 October. It warned that the anticipated consequences of the storm were such that civil authorities might need to call on assistance from the military.
  • A great deal of effort and money was put into the post-storm clean-up of forests and wooded areas.
  • A few people, such as the writer Oliver Rackham and the charity Common Ground, were active in trying to prevent unnecessary destruction of trees which, although fallen, were still living.
  • Most household policies cover storm damage, and thousands of homeowners have already started claims.
  • Based on the findings of an internal Met Office enquiry, scrutinised by two independent assessors, various improvements were made. For example, observational coverage of the atmosphere over the ocean to the south and west of the UK was improved by increasing the quality and quantity of observations from ships, aircraft, buoys and satellites, while refinements were made to the computer models used in forecasting.