It was thirty years ago today that the storm hit which they are now calling ‘The Great Storm of 1987’. I think it was officially a real hurricane.
I was living in Whitstable at the time, well just outside, in a place called Tankerton, up on the hill from Whitstable. We were smack in the middle of the storm. It woke me up in the middle of the night. I sat up and listened to the raging wind outside and I remember thinking to myself: “This is not good, something is going to break.”
I think the wind had reached a critical point, the point just before it was going to start really causing things like windows to break under the force of it. You could feel the pressure and intensity and the imminent smashing that was to come. Imagine a really fierce blustering wind which is moving about so violently that it feels like it’s coming from all different directions every single second.
The whole house was shaking and by now my girlfriend had woken up too and was sitting up in the bed shouting: “What the fuck is happening!!?”
As we sat there listening and wondering what to do, the window suddenly gave in and a huge roof tile (about the size of a chefs chopping block) crashed onto the floor at the bottom of the bed. “SHIT!!!”
The sheer force of the wind coming through the open window was now frightening and everything outside was starting to break. Outside our bedroom door, Tim, our landlord and house owner was now in the hallway screaming: “What the fuck is going on in there, we need to get downstairs!!”
We ran out of the room and into the corridor and I remember thinking how strange it was that the door of the attic in the ceiling was smashing around above me like the lid on a pan of boiling water.
We went downstairs into the living room and tried to figure out what to do. Things were calmer down there. All we could hear was the devastation outside. We opened the back door from the kitchen and looked out and we could see our our next door neighbours greenhouse dying the death of a thousand cuts. Lamposts were creaking and some had fallen over and bits of people’s roofs and all sorts of shit was flying around everywhere. I think I saw a black bin liner.
We took the opportunity to get rid of all the milk bottles we had accumulated…about 40 or so. We held them out into the wind with arms straight and then turned the bottle into the wind and let go and they shot across the gardens like bullets and we could hear the crash of them when they hit stuff. We got rid of them all and only added to the devastation.
I got bored and went into the living room and fell asleep. The next day, Tim had managed to get a battery operated radio going and discovered that we were now cut off and in an official disaster area. Brilliant, no work today then. (I was working as a car cleaner in Canterbury). It was another day before we could get to Canterbury.
At lunch time I decided to walk down to the seafront to see if the pub, The Harbour Lights, where I used to live, was open. There was nothing else to do, I knew people would congregate there. I couldn’t believe the carnage I witnessed on the way down to the sea front. Houses were literally smashed to pieces with bits missing off them and so many trees were bent over onto the ground or completely uprooted and lying in the roads. On the road leading to the pub, there was a tree which had fallen right through the drivers cabin of a milk float. I stood there looking at it for ages; it’s back wheels were about 4 foot in the air and there were smashed bottles everywhere. The tree was huge. There was no milk man though, Ernie was fast, he had escaped.
That was about it really. The pub was open and everyone I knew was in there telling the same story as mine. After a few days everything was back to normal. A few weeks later I caught the train to Dover and it was then that I saw the real devastation of the hurricane. The countryside had been torn to pieces, there was debris everywhere. Huge parts of forests looked like a giant had just trodden on them and there were bits of trees scattered all over the landscape. It was quite something to see.