on this day - October 15th

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The Great Storm

The Great Storm of 1987 was a violent extratropical cyclone that occurred on the night of 15-16 October, with hurricane-force winds causing casualties in England, France and the Channel Islands as a severe depression in the Bay of Biscay moved northeast. Among the most damaged areas were Greater London, the East Anglian coast, the Home Counties, the west of Brittany and the Cotentin Peninsula of Normandy, all of which weathered gusts typically with a return period of 1 in 200 years.

Forests, parks, roads and railways were strewn with fallen trees as well as schools being closed. The British National Grid suffered heavy damage, leaving thousands without power. At least 22 people were killed in England and France. The highest measured gust of 135 mph was recorded at Pointe Du Roc, Granville, France and the highest gust in the UK of 122 mph was recorded at Gorleston-on-Sea. The storm has been termed a weather bomb due to its rapid development.

That day's weather reports had failed to indicate a storm of such severity, an earlier, correct forecast having been negated by later projections. The apparent suggestion by the BBC's Michael Fish of a false alarm is celebrated as a classic gaffe, though he claims he was misquoted. As a result of this storm, major improvements were later implemented in atmospheric observation, relevant computer models, and the training of forecasters.

Michael Fish

BBC meteorologist Michael Fish drew particular criticism for reporting several hours before the storm hit:

Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way; well, if you're watching, don't worry, there isn't, but having said that, actually, the weather will become very windy, but most of the strong winds, incidentally, will be down over Spain and across into France

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