The Storm

THE GREAT STORM by Judith Kelman

Something disturbed my sleep in the early hours. I was instantly wide-awake, listening to hear any sounds that might indicate my teenage daughter had returned home safely.

The wind had got up. It sounded pretty rough outside and I decided to check my daughter’s bedroom. Having made certain she was in I went back to bed and settled down to sleep. After all, Michael Fish had assured us there wasn’t going to be a hurricane.

However, sleep was not going to be on my agenda that night. The wind was getting steadily louder, the gusts sounding like great waves from the sea, and things not tied down were rattling about with each gust, as if thrown by giants. I listened to my sleeping husband’s steady breathing. How did people manage to sleep through such storms?

Thoughts of my animals got me out of bed. They would be frightened by the noise, which now sounded more like huge rolls of thunder. Never mind the animals, I was frightened!

I went downstairs, not even trying to be quiet, as I hoped someone else would wake and come to keep me company. My husband, son and daughter must be as deaf as posts!

I was right about the animals. Holly the dog was shaking and looked pleadingly at me, relieved to have some company. Tina, one of my cats, was in, but Mickey was still outside. I opened the back door to call her and was knocked backwards by the wind. Mickey hopped inside and I struggled to close the door, which was being pushed by a strong alien hand. I locked and bolted it for added security.

With shaking hands I searched for candles, matches, and batteries for the radio should the power go off, and sat on the sofa with my cats and dog, who were all looking calmer now for having my presence. I looked at the clock. It was 2.40am. Alarming sounds were coming from outside in the total darkness. Dustbins crashed as they flew along the street, and loud screeching noises like wild animals added to my terror. Each long gust of wind now sounded like express trains bearing down on me, and I expected my house to be blown away at any moment.

How could my family still be sleeping? I had heard nothing like this in my life before.

I put the radio on and tried to hear the police messages, but they were all hisses and crackles, and it being the middle of the night, normal radio programs were not transmitting.

Just when I thought the indescribable noise could not get any worse, I heard hammering and tearing sounds from the back of the house. The conservatory roof was being lifted up and ripped off. My stomach was now in knots, my teeth chattered and my heart was pounding madly in my ears. I had to wake my husband.

He reluctantly got up to have a look, but it was clear he was oblivious to the seriousness of the situation. Telling me not to open any outside doors he went back to bed.

Just at that moment the lights went out and I felt my way in the darkness to where I had left the torch and batteries for the radio. With trembling hands I lit a few candles and tried to distract myself by searching for radio stations and comforting the terrified dog. A bunch of wild demons was whistling down the chimney, and by now the express train was a huge out of control juggernaut hurtling towards us. When would this night come to an end? It was now 3.30 a.m. Not long to go.

When the ridge tiles began sliding off the house roof I could not believe that my two children were sleeping through this racket, and decided to get them out of bed in case the roof caved in on them. As I made my way in the gloom towards the stairs I saw two shadowy figures making their way sleepily down them, followed by their father. Thank goodness!

After the storm had done its worst and taken off half the roof, it began to abate, and the wind, although still strong, was losing its power. In the eerie yellow morning light we ventured outside, along with neighbours, to view the damage. As well as the conservatory and house roof, our lilac tree had fallen flat, as had a neighbour’s four apple trees, and on the other side of us, a garden shed had flown several gardens further down the road. At this point we did not know that this had been the worst storm in Britain for 300 years, and had still to see for ourselves the heartbreaking loss of millions of trees. We were all in shock, but we were safe.