‘Trees were thrown around like crisp packets’: Redbridge remembers the Great Storm of 1987 25 years on

It is 25 years to the day since Redbridge was battered in the Great Storm of 1987.

When people across the borough went to sleep on October 15, they had little idea of the devastation that would greet them in the morning.

But the next day they woke up to power cuts, transport chaos, closed schools, damaged buildings and roads littered with uprooted trees.

Famously dismissed by BBC weatherman Michael Fish, the Great Storm of 1987 claimed 18 lives in England and cost billions in repairs.

Thankfully, no one was killed or seriously injured in Redbridge but the high winds took their toll.

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Tuesday will be the 25th anniversary of the storm but its effects can still be seen in places today.

Trees bore the brunt of the 100mph gusts, which took down 600 trees on district roads, 900 in parks, 80 on properties and 1,600 in Hainault Forest.

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After the initial scramble to clear the trees off roads, pathways and - in the case of one unfortunate Newbury Park resident - cars, residents embarked on a huge replanting project.

Thousands of pounds were donated to the Redbridge Tree Fund and volunteers worked to plant the saplings that are still growing strong.

There were also walls to be rebuilt at Seven Kings Health Centre and Fullwell Cross Day Centre.

Uphall Primary School, in Loxford, and Nightingale Primary School, in South Woodford, had to close for days after parts of their roofs were blown off.

And an estate agent in Beehive Lane, Gants Hill, had been open for only two weeks when the storm destroyed their windows, display and inside ceiling tiles.

Staff at King George Hospital and Whipps Cross Hospital gave up their free shifts to help out in casualty and the emergency services worked flat out to help people who were injured and trapped.

The only people to take advantage of the devastation were thieves, who capitalised on power cuts by bypassing alarm systems at P.G. Creed Ironmongers in Seven Kings to steal knives and tools.

Many people slept through the storm, which was at its worst overnight, but Brian Relf saw it first hand while working a night shift in Hainault.

He said: “I’m 49 now and I’ve never seen anything like it, the storm was out of control.

“Trees were being thrown around like they were crisp packets and at one point I heard a cracking sound and saw a bus shelter being thrown across the road.

“I drove home at 6am over trees and roof tiles and debris. It looked like world war three.”

Aldborough Hatch resident Ron Jeffries said people were “absolutely devastated” by the storm damage.

He added: “Everybody went to bed that night thinking it wasn’t going to happen and then it did.”

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