The UK is known for having a mild and temperate climate however, it's not unusual to experience extreme storms especially during October and January. While the scale of damage and ferocity of the winds can't be compared with the devastating hurricanes felt in some parts of the world, the UK is still one of the windiest countries in Europe and as such, has suffered its own share of storm force winds and the death and destruction that so often accompanies them.
January 31-February 1, 1953 - Storm surge
Strong winds combined with a deep depression over the North Sea led to the worst UK storm surge ever recorded in the 20th century. Norfolk on the east coast was one of the first areas to suffer, where sea levels rose by up to nine feet. With several main phone lines down, people living in the exposed areas along the south coast of England were unaware of the severity of the oncoming storm. When sea walls collapsed the rapid flooding led to many people drowning. A car ferry travelling from Scotland to Northern Ireland sank with a further 133 people losing their lives. Overall, the storm caused 307 deaths.
January 15, 1968 - The Glasgow hurricane
Glasgow bore the brunt of the strongest gales to hit the UK since records began. During the early hours a fierce storm tracking along the west coast of Scotland brought havoc to the Ayrshire coast where wind speeds reached 90-100mph with gusts of 106mph. Poor quality housing saw the greatest recorded loss of housing stock in Glasgow with around 2000 made homeless and 20 people killed.
October 15, 1987 - The Great Storm
Known as ‘The Great Storm’, southern England endured its fourth most severe storm on record where it was battered by winds exceeding 80mph with 115mph gusts. More than 15 million trees were lost while hundreds suffered power cuts and scores of roads and railways lines were blocked by fallen trees. The total death toll from the storm was 18.
January 25, 1990 - Burns Night Storm
The Burns night storm was one of the worst in 50 years and ranks among the ten most severe storms experienced in the UK. Although storm warnings were issued the previous day, the effect of the storms were much greater due to the wide spread area it covered and the fact that the worst gales happened during the daytime with many people out in the open. By the afternoon, exposed areas recorded wind speeds of over 100mph. Millions of trees were uprooted, buildings suffered structural damage and many people were injured by flying debris. With 47 people dying, it was the biggest loss of life from a storm since the great surge in 1953.
January 28, 2002
January once again fell foul to a major storm. This storm was worst over the north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland with wind speeds of 114mph recorded at Cairngorm summit in Scotland and Edinburgh reporting huge winds speeds of 82mph. Over 75,000 homes were left without power in Northern Ireland and Scotland and all Scottish train services were suspended. Overall, seven people lost their lives across northern Britain.
October 27, 2002 - WINDSTORM JEANETTE
Windstorm Jeanette caused widespread damage across England and Wales with East Anglia experiencing its strongest winds since the Burns night storm. Some 300,000 homes were left without power and over 60 flights cancelled from Heathrow airport. As common with most October storms, falling trees presented a major hazard and were responsible for most of the seven resulting deaths.
January 18 2007 - Windstorm Kyrill
One of the worst storms to hit the UK in recent times affected all of England and Wales. This windstorm was exceptional with its sustained gale force winds reaching up to 99mph. They were the highest recorded wind speeds in the UK since the Burns Night storm with roads and schools being closed, flights cancelled and widespread flood alerts. A total of 14 people were killed, mainly by falling trees or overturned trucks.
The UK has suffered several destructive winds in the past and no doubt there will be many more to come. However, with sophisticated weather forecasting techniques enabling the issuing of advance warnings, the overall loss of life resulting from strong winds should be minimal.