On 15 October 1987 weather forecaster Michael Fish had no idea that he would become famous just for saying there would not be a hurricane that night. Hours later the worst storm since 1703 hit the UK, beaching the Sealink Ferry Hengist when it was ripped from its moorings in Folkestone harbour and overwhelming cargo vessel the Sumina with 60 ft waves in Dover harbour. Buildings were destroyed, trees were uprooted and 18 people were killed in England alone. A few days later the Sunday Mirror ran a story about calls for the ‘Fish in hot water’ to resign, as thousands struggled on without power, Sevenoaks came to terms with the loss of six of its famous oaks, and an escaped snow leopard from Howlett’s wildlife park in Bekesbourne was spotted in the vicinity of Ashford.
The leopard returned home a few days later, and in December seven saplings were planted in Sevenoaks. But damage to Winston Churchill’s home at Chartwell included the destruction of a horseshoe of beeches, leaving the view ‘shredded’. Another National Trust property to be badly affected, Toys Hill, had been gifted to the nation by Octavia Hill. Fallen trees were left on the ground to create an ‘exclusion zone’ that serves to this day as a tangible reminder of the devastation.
When the St Jude Storm reached the UK on 27 October 2013 Michael Fish urged caution, but joked that people would say it ‘served him right’ when a tree fell down in his garden.
Research by Charlie, Elizabeth, Hannah, Lewis, Niamh, Polina.
‘A Fish in Hot Water.’ Sunday Mirror. 18 October 1987.
‘Oh Winnie!’ Daily Mirror. 13 October 1988.
‘Remembering How Kent Suffered in the Great Storm of October 1987’. 4 October 2020. https://www.inyourarea.co.uk/news/remembering-how-kent-suffered-in-the-great-storm-of-october-1987/
‘Rising from the Eye of the Great Storm’
Sandwell Evening Mail. 16 October 1987. 3. [article continued from 1].
Toy’s Hill Exclusion Zone