A Conversation for April Create: Talking about the Weather

The Forgotten Great Storm of 1978.

Post 1

MMF - Keeper of Mustelids, with added P.M.A., is now in a relationship.

I remember the Great Storm of 1987 well, but not because of the storm, as I managed to smiley - zzz through it.

I was working in the retail trade at the time, and the day of the aftermath was my day off, so I'd been out that evening imbibing a few too many smiley - ale, looking forward to an empty house and a lie-in.

The next morning the house was in uproar, with my four flat-mates shouting about the 'damage' outside and being unable to get to work, although not one of them had actually ten outside or attempted to travel.

I eventually gave up on smiley - zzz, and decided to get away from the racket and hysterical flatmates for a bit of smiley - zen and smiley - shhh. I decided to cycle from Streatham in South London where I then lived, to Chelsea, to assess the damage for myself. In Wandsworth there was quite a bit of foliage littering the streets, but nothing of any serious note that I could see. It wasn't until I reached Clapham Common when I saw there was quite a bit of arboreal damage, with branches down and a far number of elms and maples flattened or uprooted. There were some buildings damaged by fallen trees, and a number of cars buried under fallen branches, ripped off of trees that were over a century old. In places it was difficult to cycle across the common, due to the debris of the storm. The most interesting image was seeing children playing between the fallen trees and dogs sniffing around with what appeared to be quizzical or confused looks. When I arrived in Chelsea, having seen further storm damage but not as much as I expected, the roads were quieter than normal. I believe the surrounding Counties took the brunt of the storm and Central London seemed to have got off lightly, certainly in my small part of the City.

When I arrived at the work-place I found that around 1/3rd of staff had phoned in to say they couldn't make it, many from Kent or Surrey, where fallen trees had seriously disrupted rail travel. As I was now at work and wanted to get away from my raving flat-mates, I offered to work, which was gratefully accepted. Strangely the aftereffects of the storm didn't appear to have disturbed the Chelsea residents, with it being a busy day, or maybe it just appeared so due to the reduced staffing levels.

"The Forgotten Great Storm of 1978".

However, I do remember Kent's 'Great Storm' of Wednesday 11th January 1978. This is was a storm-surge that has largely been forgotten by many except those who were there.

On that Wednesday evening I was volunteering at a youth club in Cliftonville, an area North-East of Margate, situated on top of a chalk cliff. By 20.30 the weather outside had become very unpleasant, with the ceramic facia tiles around the outside of the building being ripped off and debris flying around as the wind battered the cliff and blew down Zion Place.

It was felt that the weather was such that it was best if we evacuated the building and send everyone home. This was done fairly quickly and without a great deal of fuss or excitement. By 21.00 I was heading home. But how, as I was now in a quandary. Did I cycle the 5 miles to Ramsgate (as the crow flies) or take the train?

Judging by the strength of the wind I didn't fancy cycling, especially with the strong gusts, although the wind would have largely been behind me, so I decided to head for Margate railway station. This was not as straightforward as I first thought as it entailed cycling into the strengthening wind to reach Fort Hill, a fairly steep road following the contour of the cliff levelling out at the clock tower adjacent to Margate harbour. This was followed by a 400 yard (360m) ride along Margate's amusement 'Golden Mile' to get to the station.

As I left the youth club on my bike, I could see a white box van trying to drive along the road to reach Fort Hill, but kept being stopped by the force of the wind, on occasion being pushed backwards. I struggled myself, making little progress. I had to give up cycling and walked, head bowed into the gale-force tempestuous winds. Once onto Fort hill the gradient assisted my descent but I could see advertising hoardings being blown cartwheel style, up the hill, along with assorted detritus, much of dubious origin.

On reaching the Clocktower, there was around 6" (30cm) of choppy sea water/rainfall on the road, and spume and spray being blown over the sea wall as well as waves breaking over. By now, I was using the bicycle as a walking frame. As I neared the Station the bricks forming the facade of Dreamland amusement arcade were being flung into the nearside pavement and road. I think I could envisage what it was like to be hailed by mortars.

I opted to continue on the sea side of the road, hoping to avoid the breaking waves but more importantly the hail of masonry and tiles flying from the surrounding buildings. I did eventually reach Margate station around 21.45, a journey that would usually take 10 minutes to cycle.

A train from London pulled into the station at around 22.00 and I climbed on, bike and all. The train attempted to leave the station but on trying to get past the cover of the station, was halted by the wind. The driver decided to reverse the train around 100 yards (90m) into the station to get enough momentum to leave the station.

The bizarre nature of the evening hadn't run it's course. When I reached Ramsgate, who's station is on the town's outskirts, around a mile (1.5km) from the town centre, the wind was much less than in Margate, and cycling into Ramsgate was a breeze smiley - rofl. Well, not Ramsgate, as such, as I lived on the outskirts of Ramsgate to the South-West, so was unaware of how Ramsgate seafront was being unaffected until the following day.

Which was when I realised the full toll of the storm.

Both Margate and Herne Bay piers were made inoperable by the combined storm and sea surge and had to be closed to the public. Not hat they could be accessed as the sections linking the pier head to the land had largely been washed away or mangled to such an extent they were impassable. Margate's Lido had been destroyed, with the deck-chairs being broken and resembling Matchsticks. Ramsgate harbour's East Pier had a number of 2.5 ton (2540kg) granite blocks ripped from the wall and lost in the sea, while the road surface was also destroyed. I understand few of the blocks were found, and new sections had to be fabricated.

Scavengers, including my Father, poured onto Margate beach over the next two days, purloining the wood that had formed Margate Pier's decking and been washed ashore, being good-quality and well-seasoned mahogany. This was despite the Police and Council providing a token presence to prevent looting. I was informed later that it was deemed cheaper, and easier, to let locals remove the booty than to pay Council employees to remove and dispose of the storm wrack. My Mother benefitted from quality, built-in kitchen units, and my Father had extra wood left over for quite a number of other projects.

On the Thursday I found that the sand that was being blown off Margate beach had blown through my genuine Royal Navy greatcoat and into my back. It took ages to get the coat clean and sand free, while my back took a number of attempts to remove.

Certainly an evening I will not forget. I have the pictorial souvenir, as well as a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings to remind me of that 'Great Storm' now for many, largely on the scrapheap of remembered storms. Why? Because it didn't affect London or it's suburbs, I guess. I understand that the East coast suffered worse with a number of other piers being badly damaged or destroyed. Luckily due to improved storm defences following the fatal storm surge of 1953, the devastation was minimised, much as it was with the surge of December 6th, 2013.




I hope that is the sort of thing you were looking for for Create. Unfortunately I have no photographs of either storm as all my photos, pre-2000, disappeared in a flat move.

smiley - cheers


smiley - musicalnote

PS. Margate pier (actually known as Margate jetty) refused to smiley - ghost. It is listed as 'The least successful Pier demolition'. Possibly ever. The superstructure and walkway were the first to be disposed of, with the lifeboat house being removed later. The jetty head had to be reached by boat. Carefully, due to underwater and overhead hazards.
The first attempt to remove the 34 legs and other ironwork, a year after the jetty was largely destroyed, was by a demolition expert. This did no more than send a huge gout of water hundreds of feet into the air. The second faired little better, sending a rivet flying over the coast road, through the window of a pub and wedging itself into the wall opposite. The jetty was largely unscathed by these actions.
For safety reasons, the next two explosions were carried out at midnight, doing little apart from waking the townsfolk of Margate. A curfew was then imposed, with further detonations doing little damage to the pier except for a slight list to the Lifeboat house. More attempts were undertaken, this time to destroy each of the legs one at a time, rather than try to destroy the jetty in one go. Even the Royal Engineers were called in to assist in the task. I am led to believe that the legs had to finally be cut off at beach level, using cutting equipment. Today the Turner Contemporary Gallery looks out over the final remains of the jetty, with buoys pointing out the underwater hazards to shipping.

So even today, Margate jetty still remains, a testimony to Victorian Engineering. They certainly built piers to last then.

This was not the first time the jetty had been damaged. Thee jetty was built in 1857, completed in 1875 and extended in 1893 and 1900. It had a previous brush with partial demolition, when a drifting vessel collided with the central section of the pier in 1877, destroying it and stranding 50 people overnight, until a rescue could be attempted the following day.



smiley - musicalnote

The Forgotten Great Storm of 1978.

Post 2


This is an interesting and vivid account. smiley - smiley

I don't remember a storm in 1978 but I do remember 1987. The town I live in, in Sussex, was cut of because all the roads were blocked with fallen trees. A bungalow near us was wrecked by a big oak tree falling on it. Fortunately, the owners were out at the time.

The Forgotten Great Storm of 1978.

Post 3

paulh. Antisocial distancing works a well as the Social kind

For New England, the great storm of 1978 was a huge blizzard on February 6-7 that dumped two feet of snow on Massachusetts, with more snow the further east you went. The governor declared a snow emergency that lasted for a full week. In the western part of the state, where snowfall was much less, this seemed an onerous move.

Only emergency vehicles were allowed n the streets. In some places this was a moot question, as Route 128 [since renumbered as Route 95] was so clogged with cars that plows could not get through. Many motorists abandoned their cars there and sought shelter wherever they could. With no drivers to move the cars as the snow was removed, this doubled the workload for the people trying to clear the highway.

As if this storm wasn't bad enough, it sat on the still-unmelted snow from a storm that dumped 20 inches on the area on January 20. There was no place to put the new snow.

Ironically, there was hardly any precipitation the rest of the winter. People moved about on skis or snowshoes under brightly sunny skies as they waited for things to return to normal.

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