Photo gallery: Night of October 1987 storm left Norfolk couple “devastated”

Twenty-five years ago to the day our region was waking up to scenes of devastation, after the great storm of October 1987. Today we continue our series of special articles as David Freezer takes a look at the storm's impact in south Norfolk.

Many people were angry that the Met Office failed to give people warnings about the fast-approaching great storm of October 1987.

The famous Michael Fish broadcast that saw the forecaster assure BBC lunchtime viewers that no hurricane was on the way will forever be associated with the devastation that followed that night.

Technically Fish was correct as he was talking about a weather system that didn't reach British shores and the storm which did batter our region had not formed in the tropics, so wasn't an official hurricane.

But if Fish had been at the house of Sheena and Anthony Florance, in Framingham Earl, next to Poringland, he could well have been more accurate with his forecast.

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Mrs Florance thought her sons had broken her barometer, a prized possession that was given to her by legendary Anglia Television weatherman Michael Hunt when he retired.

The pressure gauge had dropped so low on the evening ahead of the storm that Mrs Florance took a photo, still not knowing what was in store in the early hours of Friday, October 16, 1987.

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Mrs Florance recalled: 'I wasn't able to sleep because the heat was terrific, just like opening an oven door if you were baking scones. I was later told this was because of Arctic air meeting Sahara air and going into a terrific whirl, which made it even warmer.

'I realised that I had left my washing out so went out to get it in at about 4am and I said to my husband 'do you think it's something nuclear?'.

'He replied something along the lines of 'just make some tea and get back to bed'.'

As the storm approached temperatures were recorded as jumping as much as 10 degrees centigrade, but it was soon the winds that had Mrs Florance more worried, as their house is alongside a wood.

Mrs Florance was working as a tree warden for South Norfolk District Council at the time so was intrigued by the impact of the storm.

The wood attached to their home was planted as part of the old Poringland Heath in the late 1700s by Dr Edward Rigby, a specialist in kidney and gall stone removal at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

Trees were felled 'up to six deep' in their garden and this opened up its canopy for the first time in around 200 years, leading to some pleasant consequences.

Little owls joined the resident tawny owls in the newly opened-up woodland, several species of butterfly arrived and rare plants not expected to sprout in such an area began to grow, including bog pimpernel, spearwort and pennywort.

However the road to their house, Long Road, was blocked and Mrs Florance still recalls a distressing night, saying: 'Dawn and part of the morning was spent in watching all sizes and shapes of our trees falling around.

'Our road was blocked in 11 places and our trees were up to six deep. It was heartbreaking and tears were shed.'

For much more of our coverage of the great storm of October 1987, including videos and photo galleries, see the links at the top-right of this page.

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