The Great Storm of 1987 occurred on the night of October 15th to October 16th, 1987, when an unusually strong weather system caused winds to hit much of the south of England and some of Northern France. It was the worst storm to hit England since the Great Storm of 1703 (284 years earlier) and was responsible for the deaths of 23 people in England and France combined (19 in England, at least 4 in France).
The great storm of October 1987 was the worst to affect the south east of England since 1703. After the storm had passed the landscape was changed - some 15 million trees were felled and whole forests decimated. Buildings suffered severe damage and ships were driven on to shore. 16 people died as a direct result of the storm damage.
The storm developed rapidly - so much so that weather forecasters were unable to predict the track and ferocity of the storm. As it became apparent that this was an abnormal condition, severe warnings were flashed to emergency services.
However, the suddenly deeper depression veered north to track along the north coast of Cornwall and Devon, across central southern midlands to the Wash, catching the weather forecasters by surprise. The strongest winds were recorded in the south easterly quadrant of the storm, crossing the English side of the Channel and through Hampshire, Sussex, Surrey and Kent.
Fortunately, the stongest winds occurred in the early hours of the morning when few people where about. Had it occurred during a normal working day it is likely that the death toll of 16 would have been substantially higher. As it was, an estimated 15 million trees were uprooted [including one third of the famous Kew Gardens in London]. Roads and railways were blocked and most people found it impossible to travel to work the following day. A Sealink cross channel ferry was blown ashore at Folkestone.
Clearing up took much time and effort. Electricity supplies were gradually restored using crews brought in from the north of England that had escaped the severe damage. Some rural areas were still without mains power several days later. Insurance claims reached an all time record amount - and prompted an increase in premiums in 1988!
Although the storm was declared a rare event, expected only to happen on average every several hundred years, the Burns Day Storm hit the UK in January 1990, less than three years later and with comparable intensity.
(from several sources)