Little Bits of History

Perfect Storm

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 25, 2011

Hurricane

November 25, 1703: Great Britain is hit by the worst storm ever recorded there. This Great Storm of 1703 struck Southern England and also affected the English Channel. On this day, the highest British winds ever recorded hit the books at 120 mph. The storm began the day before and didn’t totally dissipate until December 2. All dates are Old Style – the calendar used at the time. Britain did not convert to the Gregorian Calendar until 1752.

The hurricane made landfall with a barometric reading of 973 millibars as measured in South Essex. Some today believe the pressure may have dropped as low as 950 millibars. Standard pressure at sea level is 1013.25 mbar. These low readings are part of what helps a hurricane form. The low barometric reading, along with the wind speed help to determine the category of hurricane, although the lower air pressure is even more important than the speed of the wind.

In 1703, there were many ships at sea returning from helping the King of Spain fight against the French in the War of the Spanish Succession. Many of these ships were damaged or sunk. It is believed that between 8,000 and 15,000 sailors lost their lives in the storm. The first Eddystone Lighthouse was also destroyed by the storm, killing the six occupants. Not only lives were lost, but in the New Forest in the southeast part of England, 4,000 oak trees were felled.

The Thames River is affected by tides always and with the storm surge and rushing water, about 700 ships were thrown together downstream from the London Bridge. As with all hurricanes, property damage on land was also noted. The lead roof was blown off Westminster Abbey and the Queen had to hide in the cellar of St. James’s Palace as chimneys collapsed. There was flooding throughout the area. A collapsing chimney fell on Bishop Richard Kidder at Wells, and killed him and his wife. The rise of journalism was taking off in England at this time and this Great Storm was the first weather news story written about on a national scale.

“Human misery must somewhere have a stop; there is no wind that always blows a storm.” – Euripides

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” – Rabindranath Tagore

“It is better to meet danger than to wait for it. He that is on a lee shore, and foresees a hurricane, stands out to sea and encounters a storm to avoid a shipwreck.” – Charles Caleb Colton

“There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.” – Willa Cather

Also on this day:
Trapped – In 1952, Agatha Christie’s play, The Mousetrap, is first produced – and it continues live performances to this day.
Striking Hunger – In 1984, Do They Know It’s Christmas was recorded.