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'The angels were with me' - Remembering the storm which devastated Lowestoft and Waveney 31 years ago today

PUBLISHED: 12:49 16 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:49 16 October 2018

After the hurricane, wrecked caravans on North Denes at Lowestoft. Picture:Archant Library

After the hurricane, wrecked caravans on North Denes at Lowestoft. Picture:Archant Library

Archant Library

“It was like we’d been bombed.” That was the dramatic headline which ran in the Lowestoft Journal 31 years ago this week as residents began fixing the trail of havoc and devastation left by one of the worst storms Waveney has ever seen.

North Denes Holiday Park, Lowestoft, after the 1987 hurricane. Picture: Archant LibraryNorth Denes Holiday Park, Lowestoft, after the 1987 hurricane. Picture: Archant Library

Roads were blocked, hundreds of trees toppled, electricity and phone lines cut and roofs were ripped off buildings as the storm tore across the area on Friday October 16 1987.

The dramatic Friday unfolded quickly, but the clean-up operation lasted much longer, with many sharing their stories in their local newspapers.

One 80-year-old Lowestoft woman described the moment her chimney crashed through her bedroom ceiling, in Arnold Street, narrowly missing her.

Gladys Knights said at the time: “I am very lucky. The angels were with me.”

Fallen tree in Beccles after the 1987 hurricane. Picture: Archant LibraryFallen tree in Beccles after the 1987 hurricane. Picture: Archant Library

Other families also spoke of their terror as trees crashed through ceilings.

A quayside warehouse was estimated to have suffered hundreds of thousands pounds worth of damage after having cladding torn away, while Lowestoft Lifeboat was at sea for six hours in the treacherous conditions.

The following day, the wind continued to atter Southwold, with gusts measuring up to 92 miles per hour.

In the centre of Beccles, the roof of D.R. Grey Opticians, on the corner of Blyburgate and Station Road, was ripped away, while a tree landed on a car roof near Beccles Library and shop windows were boarded up.

Midway Nurseries on the A12 near Lowestoft. Picture: Archant LibraryMidway Nurseries on the A12 near Lowestoft. Picture: Archant Library

Despite heavy rainfall battering the town, flood defences, which had been completed in 1986 at a cost of £700,000, stood up to the challenge.

All main roads into the town were blocked by fallen trees throughout the storm, leaving villages isolated, while common land was also destoryed.

Across Waveney, homes and businesses were left without power for days, while a classroom block at Kirkley High School was completely demolished in the destruction.

There were also fears for the cricket bat industry in the five years following the storm, with thousands of willow trees blown down. Bungay timber merchant Toby Watts said: “A high proportion of those trees would not have been ready for another four or five years and it means that in four or five years, the mature trees won’t be there.

Wrecked caravans at North Denes Holiday Park in Lowestoft. Picture: Archant LibraryWrecked caravans at North Denes Holiday Park in Lowestoft. Picture: Archant Library

“There could be a crisis at that time.”

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