Jim Andrews

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The Great Storm of 1987

October 15, 2012; 9:23 AM ET

Hurricane gusts raked the southeastern U.K. on Oct. 15-16, 1987, as a powerful, fast-hitting storm tore through the region.

The "worst storm since 1703" killed 18 people, the BBC News website said.

The incident was, for the British insurance industry, the costliest ever for weather-related claims, according to the BBC.

Extreme winds, locally clocked above 100 mph, devastated woodlots and city shade trees.

Parts of London had winds of at least 70 mph, or almost hurricane force, according to the BBC. But the southeast corner of England bore the brunt of the storm, as gusts reached between 90 and 122 mph.

The Great Storm felled an estimated 15 million trees within a few hours, shattering the forest canopy of many southern England woods.

At the highest point in Kent, Toys Hill, about 98 percent of a woodland that included centuries-old beech trees was lost.

The UK Met Office's chief meteorologist called the storm a "once-in-300-year event".

One notorious aspect of the storm was that the Met Office was caught "off guard," failing to foretell the devastating nature of the blow.

Pressure analysis of 0600 UTC Oct. 16, 1987, shows the Great Storm over eastern U.K. and the North Sea. The lowest pressure at the time was 960 mb, or 28.35 inches of mercury. (Credit: U.K. Met Office)

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