“The media exaggerated Storm Eunice”

I vividly remember October 15, 1987. As a teenager and having just watched Karate Kid 2 (which wasn’t as good as numero uno), I decided to try my own luck at being the son of Daniel from Sussex in a leisure center in Hastings.

Mother looked distraught as she picked me up: me in all the gear but clueless and her in her Orange Daf, which was the pinnacle of car fashion at the time. As we walked along the waterfront to the clunker, the wind almost knocked me over as I struggled to stay upright, and she had trouble controlling a car without ABS or power steering.

We learned the next day that we had been in the very center of the great storm, and for my part, I did not blame Michael Fish. Back then, we were bolder, braver, and less easily frightened by stories of impending doom. If Fish had got it right, we would have just shrugged it off and hoped for the best, which we did anyway when it turned out to be so drastically wrong.

Handout photo issued by National Trust dated 16/10/1987 of Emmetts House and Garden, Ide Hill in Kent shortly after the Great Storm of 1987 which destroyed 95% of its woodland. Date of issue: Friday, February 18, 2022.

The low point was having to sleep in the living room with my dad who had kittens as he frantically searched to check the house insurance hadn’t expired while we looked at every fence panel and greenhouse window pane go with the wind. Living on a cliff, my bedroom window, visibly tilted in the middle from the beatings, survived, but the cleaning was long, arduous and took weeks.

Surveying the scene the next morning with my brother on our BMX Mag burners, there were hundreds of downed trees, dozens of roofless houses and cars in the strangest positions. Flooding was common and the Pett Level campground looked like a downtown swimming pool, albeit littered with debris from trailer parts.

And then we fast forward a few decades: the last time I remember such a storm being announced was when we were in Cornwall a few years ago.

The news outlets over-dramatized the freak weather event to come and I consoled myself the night before at the Harbor Inn, Porthleven, with about 20 national rag photographers who had been sent to take a picture of the waves breaking breaking on the church.

When I woke up the next morning, I stumbled out in front of the house to inspect the scene: it was a single dustbin lid lying on the road, which had come loose from its moorings. The event was never mentioned by the press again. It felt like the hype hadn’t happened, and we just cracked up as we were until next time.

And now, next time is here with Storm Eunice: as I write this, she’s in her prime, and we’ve just returned from a midterm break in central London. We faced days of catastrophic fear and absurdity, not too dissimilar to the noises made about Brexit or Covid and despite their best efforts to scare us otherwise, as expected, it just didn’t pan out product. Yes: it was windy and trees fell. I “lost” a few fence panels, like many of you, but was it as bad as we were relentlessly led to believe?

Trees have fallen and train journeys have been disrupted by Storm Eunice

Trees have fallen and train journeys have been disrupted by Storm Eunice

Would you have flown a kite in there?

The national media, in the era of hyper-competition, has a vested interest, you see: they raise the fearometer to 11, then hope something bad happens (by the law of averages, it is the same) before writing tirelessly about the one person who died after being hit by a falling tree in Arundel or Flintshire.

Yet as we were walking towards South Kensington station earlier today (closed due to the storm) we saw five overturned bins, a few branches and a bin lid. I said to my wife: it’s hardly Katrina or Haiti, isn’t it?

Collectively we must develop a backbone. We feed on fear, then, when disaster does not emanate, we justify our actions hunkered down in the corner with the mantra “prevention is better than cure”. What we really should do is show some determination, put on a warm jacket and use the kite we bought a few years ago that’s been gathering dust in the air closet because it’s fighting on a day like today. .

Were media reports overhyped or was it safer to stay indoors? Email [email protected]

Comments are closed.