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10 facts on the Great Storm of 1987

The Great Storm was the worst to hit the UK in centuries. Credit: PA

This Monday marks 30 years since the Great Storm of 1987.

Another storm, Hurricane Ophelia, is set to hit on the anniversary, triggering memories for those who lived through it the first time around.

But what was the Great Storm? And why is it still remembered all these years later?

Here are 10 key facts about it.

  • It was the most catastrophic storm to hit Britain in 300 years
Joan Rix tries to make a call from a destroyed phone box. Credit: PA

The Great Storm was the most destructive storm to hit the UK since 1703 and its effects were disastrous.

Cars were crushed, power lines brought down and buildings ripped apart as winds of over 100mph lashed the south of the UK.

Thousands were left without power for days, and many others were forced out of their homes due to flooding.

A ship capsized at Dover, a Channel ferry was driven ashore near Folkestone and a detention ship off Harwich broke its moorings.

Transport networks were also brought to a halt by fallen trees.

  • The weather forecasters got it very wrong

The then-BBC weatherman Michael Fish became infamous after he assured viewers there would be no hurricane hours before the storm hit.

He told viewers: "Earlier on today, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard a hurricane was on the way.

"Well, if you're watching, don't worry, there isn't."

The Met Office later launched an investigation into why they had failed to identify the storm.

Mr Fish says it is was unfair to blame him as he was reliant on Met Office data - thought had admits he did "end up sounding a bit stupid".

  • 18 people were killed
Caravans ripped apart by the force of the winds in Peacehaven. Credit: PA

More than a dozen people perished as the storm blasted southern Britain on the night of 15-16 October 1987.

Among those who lost their lives were two volunteer firemen who were crushed by a falling tree as they answered an emergency call.

Another man died when his chimneys collapsed and buried him in his home, while two seamen perished in Dover Harbour.

  • It caused £1 billion worth of damage
Collapsed scaffolding at Battersea in London. Credit: PA

The winds ripped through property, causing massive damage and leaving a vast repair bill.

Some smaller structures were simply ripped to shreds, while many houses suffered smashed windows and damaged roofs.

There was also a huge repair bill for damage to roads and utilities caused by the high winds.

And photographs show the huge number of cars crushed by falling trees and debris.

In all, it was estimated that the repair bill topped £1 billion pounds.

  • 15 million trees were blown down
A car crushed by a falling tree. Credit: PA

Some of the worst damage was suffered by Britain's trees, with an estimated 15 million ripped out by their roots.

Many people emerged the next day to find their gardens and local parks bore the some of the starkest signs of the intense force of the storm.

Falling trees also caused huge damage, taking down power lines, damaging buildings and crushing vehicles.

  • It was not technically a hurricane
A caravan park was ripped down to tinder and rubble on the south coast. Credit: PA

The Great Storm had hurricane-strength winds of 100mph - but it missed out on the classification due to a technicality.

According to official classifications, a hurricane is an intense storm with winds of at least 74mph, which forms in the tropics.

It's only because the storm was not in the correct location that it was not considered to be a hurricane.

  • It was 'the worst destruction since the Blitz'
Londoners examine Blitz damage in central London. Credit: PA

In the stunned reaction to the huge damage wreaked by the storm, some cast back to World War Two for a suitable comparison.

The then Home Secretary Douglas Hurd called it the "worst, most widespread night of disaster” since the Blitz.

  • It was only luck that prevented more deaths
The inside of a house where a chimney collapsed in Hastings. Credit: PA

Officials said that the death toll from the storm might have been far higher if the weather front had hit during the daytime, when more people would have been outside and at higher risk.

At it was, the worst of the winds blasted the country during 2am and 6am, where most people were in relative safety at home in bed.

  • The effects are still being felt today
Trees ripped down by high winds in Kew Gardens, London. Credit: PA

The devastation wreaked by the storm is still noticeable in British woodlands - and will be for many years to come, according to the Woodland Trust.

It "changed the shape of the landscape" in some areas such as Ashenbank Wood, said spokesman Hollie Anderson.

Many of the trees that were lost were decades or even hundreds of years old, meaning that it will take generations to fully recover.

"Even my grandchildren would still probably be able to see the impact of that storm," she said.

  • The storm led to improvements in weather prediction
Emmetts House and Garden, Ide Hill in Kent. Credit: PA

Amid fierce criticism of their failure to predict the storm, the Met Office launched an inquiry into what went wrong.

That led to improvements being made in both the scope and quality of weather observations. Changes were also made to the computer models used for forecasting.

All of that means that should another Great Storm be head towards the UK, it is unlikely to be missed again.