St Albans winds back to 1987 on the 30th anniversary of the Great Storm

1987 Storm: Photo: THOM GASCOIGNE

1987 Storm: Photo: THOM GASCOIGNE - Credit: Archant

Winds of up to 134mph buffeted the St Albans district 30 years ago this week, wreaking havoc and causing extensive damage in their wake.

The Herts Advertiser article on the storm from 1987.

The Herts Advertiser article on the storm from 1987. - Credit: Archant

The Great Storm of October 15 1987 tore across southern England and northern France, and in Herts power was wiped over the county, schools were closed and cars, houses and shops were wrecked by winds and debris.

Locally St Albans council received 158 calls to deal with fallen trees endangering homes or blocking roads.

Luckily nobody was killed or injured in Herts, but the loss of thousands of trees prompted a 10-year ‘Free Tree Scheme’ to replace them.

We asked readers to share their memories of the Great Storm.

Zoe said: “My mum was a driving instructor for BSM at the time. We had gone out in her learner’s car and a huge tree from the park by the river had fallen across Lower Luton Road.

“We were driving towards the fallen tree when I realised mum had forgotten to take the BSM pyramid off of the roof!

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“Luckily, we made it under.”

Claire Naish said: “I remember school was shut early. I was at Townsend, and you could see the huge panes of glass in the canteen shaking.”

Susan Palmer, who was at Manland School in Harpenden, recalled: “I was getting changed from PE and the roof blew off our classroom. We all had to run out in pants and vests, and amazingly no-one got hurt.”

“We were most upset by having to leave the hamster behind as we thought he might die!”

Fortunately, the hamster survived.

Tim Easter said: “I had a hospital appointment at Great Ormond Street hospital to get to, but the overhead power lines were down, and it took an absolute age to get there by good old Green Line coach. I did make it, just!”

Riva, who was working in London in 1987, said: “I made it into work and the building we were in was only six floors, but on the top floor you could feel the building swaying.

“They were so worried about the trains home being stopped and having to pay for overnight accommodation we were sent home early.”

Gillian said: “I was in the kitchen with my daughter and heard a loud bang. We went into front room and it was covered in glass. Next door’s fence panels had smashed into our big window.

“The houses in Queens Road lost chimneys and all the roofs were lifted. Firefighters had to tarpaulin the roofs down.”

Melody said: “I was woken up by my sister in the middle of the night to look out the bedroom window and saw dustbins being blown down Kings Road and trees in Napsbury being blown about like crazy.”

The industrious Tony Clarke said: “I was out all day with my chainsaws, cutting up trees that had fallen over the road,

“I remember the firefighters were on strike and the police never even bothered asking what I was doing on the highway with a chainsaw!

“Made several loads in my pickup that day, I was running out of places to store the wood!”

Annette was also working in London, and recalled: “I had to wait until very late to finally get on a postal train, and stand like a sardine in the post carriage as far as St Albans.

“The platform wasn’t long enough so I had to go through the train to eventually get off just before the start of the platform! Everyone was helping each other.

“I then had to get a taxi to Harpenden as the train wasn’t going any further on that line.

“The taxi driver had to dodge fallen trees all the way along the road between St Albans and Harpenden.

“I only had three hours sleep before heading back to London.”