A stormy history in resort

A pedestrian battles to stay upright in a storm in Blackpool, in 1988

“Earlier today a woman apparently phoned the BBC, saying she had heard there was a hurricane on the way.... Don’t worry, there isn’t.”

Most Memory Lane readers will be familiar with weatherman’s Michael Fish famous quote during the forecast on the BBC news, on October 15, 1987.

The Gibsons' oak tree lies across the roof of their Singleton home, torn from the ground during the storm in November 1977

That afternoon, winds were very light over most parts of the UK.

He was unlucky, however, as he was talking about a different storm system over the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean that day.

This storm, he said, would not reach the British Isles – and, it didn’t.

It was, in fact, the rapidly deepening depression approaching from the Bay of Biscay which struck – with devastating consequences.

North Shore Prom damage caused by severe weather in 1963

Four or five days before the storm hit the UK, forecasters had predicted severe weather was on the way. As they got closer, however, weather prediction models started to give a less clear picture.

Instead of stormy weather over a considerable part of the UK, the models suggested severe weather would pass to the south of England – only skimming the south coast.

A few hours after Michael Fish’s now famous words, the storm changed direction.

By the time most people went to bed, exceptionally strong winds hadn’t been mentioned in national radio and TV weather broadcasts.

Severe gales caused damage along the Fylde Coast in November 1960, the illuminations at North Shore were badly affected

But severe weather warnings were issued to emergency responders, including the Ministry of Defence and London Fire Brigade.

Perhaps the most important warning was issued by the Met Office to the Ministry of Defence at 1.35am on October 16.

It warned the anticipated consequences of the storm were such that civil authorities might need to call on assistance from the military.

With winds gusting at up to 100mph, there was massive devastation across the country and 18 people were killed.

The storms, rough seas and floods of 1977 caused damage to the footpaths near the pumping station at Anchorsholme Lane

About 15 million trees were blown down. Many fell on to roads and railways, causing major transport delays. Others took down electricity and telephone lines, leaving thousands of homes without power for more than 24 hours.

Buildings were damaged by winds or falling trees. Numerous small boats were wrecked or blown away.

The Great Storm was later categorised as a one-in-200-year event.

And Storm Ophelia, while nowhere near as devastating, struck exactly 30 years later, to the day.

Ophelia caused minimum disruption in England and Blackpool, although three people were killed in Ireland, which bore the brunt of the severe gales.

Some parts of England saw the sun appear to “turn red”, as the former hurricane pulled air and dust from the Sahara, and Southern Europe.

Storm damage outside the Queens Theatre, Cleveleys

These photographs from our archives show some of Blackpool’s stormiest weather over the last 50 years and the destruction it left in its wake.

In November 1960, severe gales caused extensive damage along the Fylde Coast.

The Illuminations at North Shore, Blackpool, were badly affected – as can be seen in this glass plate negative picture revealing the aftermath.

Seventeen years later, the area again fell victim to severe storms and flooding.

In November 1977, the Fylde coast was rocked by hurricane force winds of more than 80 miles per hour.

With a big tide, the sea invaded the land – causing millions of pounds of damage.

Hundreds of cars were abandoned, telephones were disconnected and the only way through some areas was by wading, boat or large lorry.

The worst towns affected included Fleetwood, Knott End, Pilling and Blackpool.

These archive pictures show the aftermath in Cleveleys and Anchorsholme.

The Queens Theatre in Cleveleys can be seen in one photo and the footpaths near the pumping station at Anchorsholme Lane in another – lying broken up by the force of the wind and water.

And the unfortunate Gibson family home, in Singleton, is also pictured in the aftermath of that particular storm – today’s Memory Lane front cover photo.

The oak tree at the front of their house was ripped from its roots, toppling onto the roof of their house.

The former Blackburn Convalescent Home, on Clifton Drive North, St Annes, suffered the loss of part of its roof 20 years later when storms once again ravaged the Fylde coast.

Strong winds and rain battered St Annes in December 1997, causing the damage shown here to the empty and already-dilapidated building.

North Shore Promenade suffered serious damage when storms struck in January 1963, as shown in this archive photograph.

And a typical stormy, windy day in Blackpool can be seen in a picture of a pedestrian battling to stay upright – clinging to a lamppost for support – in February 1988.

Damage was caused to the roof of the former Blackburn Convalescent Home in St Annes by storms

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