Burns Day Killer Storm
The 25th of January 1990 AD
Thanks to Michael Fish’s most famous moment the Great Storm of 1987 has become part of British folklore, perhaps sticking in the national memory better than the 1990 Burns Day Storm because it changed the landscape, felling 15 million trees. But the later event was more deadly, claiming 47 lives across Britain and Ireland, and cost insurers more than £2 billion, roughly twice the toll of the Great Storm. Of course those of us with a bag of chips on our shoulders think the real difference is that in 1987 devastation was centred on the South of England, so the BBC noticed it more. In 1990 damage was reported over a wide area: people died in Sussex , Winchester , Bristol , Cardiff , Swindon ...
The Burns Day Storm (whose centre fittingly passed over the poet’s birthplace of Ayr ) had gusts of wind over 100mph, but only reached about 75mph for sustained periods, rather less violent than the event three years earlier; but it proved more deadly because of its timing, coming in the daytime: some children were killed in their schools; and motorists suffered as their vehicles were thrown off the road or hit by debris – Gorden Kaye of ‘Allo ‘Allo! fame was badly injured when a plank crashed through his car windscreen and hit the actor.
In 1990 the forecasters predicted the storm’s progress; but there is a world of difference between issuing warnings and people being able to do something about roofs being ripped from their houses and parked cars being thrown into trees.
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