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When the wind really did blow

Features | October 2017

Thirty years on, Thomas Pakenham recalls the Great Storm of 1987 and sees a silver lining to the catastrophe

  It was three o’clock in the morning of 16th October 1987. Bleary-eyed, I peered out of the bedroom window of our terraced house in Notting Hill. Something strange was happening in the communal garden below. My favourite magnolia was rolling across the lawn. Clearly a nightmare. I went back to sleep. Next day, and in the days succeeding, Londoners were told they had lived through the most violent storm since 1703. But it was hard to believe. The Great Storm, if it was one (and technically it was not a hurricane, as hurricanes come only from the tropics), had been oddly selective in its choice of victims. At one end of our street, a tall lime tree had been decapitated, its neck broken and its branches dropped onto the pavement. The rest of the trees – birch and false acacia – were still standing proud. Of course, many...

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