Britain's worst storms

Since records began back in 1766, Britain has seen some deadly storms batter their way across the country, destroying farmland, buildings and killing hundreds of people.  But what are the worst storms to hit the British Isles? Here are 10 that made an impact on the UK.

11th October 2017
A dramatic late summer storm over a cambridgeshire fen field after the harvest of wheat. Square hay bales make a pleasing geometric pattern. Low horizon, distant detail on the horizon.

Bristol Channel Floods – 1607

Severn Bridge
The modern day Severn Bridge in the Bristol Channel where the 1607 floods occurred ©Getty

This sudden deluge occurred on 30 January 1607, resulting in more than 2,000 people drowning and devastation to farmland and livestock. For years historians believed the floods were caused by a storm surge, but in 2002 scientists Simon Haslett and Ted Bryant published evidence that the flood might have been caused by a tsunami.

The 1703 Storm

Eddystone lighthouse
An engraving of the Eddystone Lighthouse by J.M.W. Turner (published 1881) ©Getty

Arguably the worst storm or natural disaster to ever hit the United Kingdom. Without warning, the storm battered the country for more than a week, killing between 8,000 and 15,000 people. Southern England was worst affected, and the first Eddystone Lighthouse was swept away. Robinson Crusoe author Daniel Defoe even wrote a book about it – “The Storm”, published in 1704.

Eyemouth Disaster – 1881

Eyemouth
The village of Eyemouth lost 129 men ©Getty

A severe storm struck the southern coast of Scotland on 14 October, 1881. Strong winds capsized several fishing boats, and 189 fishermen drowned as a result. 129 of the fishermen were from the village of Eyemouth, and the citizens of the village still refer to the disaster as Black Friday.

The Great Blizzard – 1891

Train derailed in blizzard
An engraving of the Flying Dutchman, a train that was derailed in the blizzard in Cambourne, Cornwall ©Getty

For four long days, Cornwall and Devon where almost entirely cut off from the rest of Britain. Violent gales bought down trees, temperatures plummeted below zero and snow drifted in places up to 15 feet high. 200 people perished, along with 6,000 animals. Roads and railways became impassable, telephone and telegraph lines were taken out of commission.

North Sea Flood - 1953

Flooded pub
A flooded pub in eastern England, 1953 ©Getty

One of the greatest storm surges on record drowned 326 people in the UK at the end of January 1953. The flooding forced 30,000 people to be evacuated from their homes, and 24,000 properties were seriously damaged. 160,000 hectares of eastern England flooded and more than 1,600 km of coastline was damaged.

The Big Freeze - 1962/63

The harsh winter of 1962–1963 was one of the coldest winters on record in the UK. The cold weather started on 22 December, with snow falling across Scotland on Christmas Eve before sweeping its way south. The Arctic weather lasted until March, with rivers and lake freezing over.

The Great Storm of 1987

One of the most notorious storms to hit the UK, after weather presenter Michael Fish famously dismissed the idea that a hurricane was approaching. In total, 18 people lost their lives in Britain, with the damage caused costing over £1 billion. An estimated 15 million trees were lost, thousands of homes were without power for several days and wreckage blocked the roads and railways across the country.

Burns' Day Storm - 1990

Hurricane force winds struck southern Scotland, causing the death of 47 people. Damage was widespread, with power supplies cut and roads and railways blocked.

The floods of 2000

Flooded footpath
A flooded footpath in Hereford ©Getty

In late October 2000, the UK experienced the wettest autumn in 200 years, with five of the major rivers, bursting their banks. Gusts of 93mph battered the country leaving thousands of homes without power and more than 10,000 homes and businesses were flooded at 700 locations. It was estimated that the cost of the damage was £1 billion. 

The 2013 Storm

Flooded farm
An aerial view of a flooded farm in Gloucestershire ©Getty

Deemed to be the stormiest December since 1969, widespread gusts of 60-80mph swept through the country, with registered gusts of well over 100mph. The worst of the damage was caused by falling trees, which damaged buildings, cars and power lines. Severe flooding also affected the country, with thousands evacuated from their homes.

 

Image: A dramatic late summer storm over a Cambridgeshire fen field after the harvest of wheat. Square hay bales make a pleasing geometric pattern. Low horizon, distant detail on the horizon. Credit: Getty

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