East Anglia: Why the night of October 15, 1987 is one I will never forget

WAKING in the dead of night I looked around the unfamiliar room, feeling slightly disorientated and very scared, writes Digital Publisher Natalie Hoodless.

Outside I could hear thud after thud, the gap between the dreaded bangs was sporadic. After long pauses, I would breathe a sigh of relief that it was over, but then seconds later there would be another clash.

Desperate to know what was going on but too petrified to venture to the window by myself I prodded the stripes of mattress showing between the slats of the bunk bed above me.

“Amy….Amy….are you awake?”

There was no response. I tried again. Nothing.

Instead I tried to tip toe across the room to the bookshelf, thinking a picture book might distract me from the horrific noises outside.. But each time I reached the centre of the room.

BANG… another crash rattled the room. I raced back to the safety of my warm, cosy bed and nestled under the cover, trying to build up the courage to try again.

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This is my earliest memory, I was just three and it was the night of October 15, 1987.

I had just moved from my nursery into my older sister’s bedroom because my nursery was being extended to create a much bigger third bedroom at the semi-detached house in Hornchurch that my parents still call home.

This extension was only half finished when The Great Storm of 1987 hit East Anglia and the scaffolding still surrounded it.

Like me, my dad had been woken by the banging. He dashed from his bed into the half-built extension to see what was happening without stopping to grab any clothes - my poor nan who until then had slept through the drama had a rude awakening.

Not realising that the south east was being battered by winds of up to 100mph, my dad went outside and clambered up the scaffolding poles to tie down the offending boards.

His bravery may have saved a few window panes but could easily have cost him his life.

The winds had died down by the time we awoke the following morning and my night of horror was momentarily forgotten as I found my late nan getting dressed in the bathroom, pulling her tracksuit – very big in the 1980s – on over her pyjamas.

She told my sister and I that she needed to help my dad tidy the garden.

Only when we looked outside to see what they were doing did my sister – who it transpired had abandoned me mid-storm and sought refuge in my parents’ bed – and I realise what had happened.

She took us for a walk and we saw trees blocking the roads, roofs that were damaged and debris littering the streets. Seeing a flourescent paper satchel caught under a huge tree, I sobbed, thinking the paper boy must also be trapped underneath.

Later that day my dad took us shopping and bought us each a torch – I presumed at the time that it was so I could see to get my books if another storm ever struck. When I left home 20 years later I still had that torch, although I thankfully never needed it for more than locating a sneaky midnight feast on Brownie Pack Holiday.

As well as the torch, we also chose a cuddly toy each, again I thought this was in case we needed comfort should another storm brew.

I was wrong because within hours of choosing the soft yellow duck he took us to the hospital and made me hand it over to a screaming bundle nestled in my mum’s arms.

This was the first time I was to meet my younger sister.

Happy 25th birthday Vanessa.