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Weathering storms in Dover and Folkestone plus a tornado hits Deal

By Ron Green
Tornado hits Walmer
Tornado hits Walmer

Our fascination for the weather was as strong then as it is now and the papers regularly told stories of storms, floods, blizzards, heatwaves and droughts - and the sometimes devastating impact.

Here are a few:

A great gale ravaged Kent’s east coast in June 1877.

In Dover they said the destruction and fury was the worst the port had ever seen.

Huge stone blocks, weighing many tons, were torn out of Admiralty Pier and massive flagstones, 8ft by 6ft, were strewn about "like scraps of torn-up letter", said the Gazette.

The wind rose at 8am on the day of the highest neap tide. By 11am "the scene was indescribable".

Thick masonary supporting 800 yards of the promenade was ripped away.

A sea wall 7ft high and a quarter of a mile long, built to protect the South Eastern Railway station, was completely swept away.

Ten streets were flooded to the height of front doors. Local clergy set up a shelter in the Sailors’ Home for families whose homes were destroyed or flooded.

The Gazette reporter wrote: "No corps of engineers with all the modern explosives could have done the work in three weeks which the sea did in three hours."

In Folkestone the violent seas almost destroyed a new pier built by South Eastern Railway for Continental passengers. Houses in Marine Crescent were flooded and the occupants "greatly alarmed".

In Sandgate the sea broke down a recently built seawall.

Two cottages were destroyed and the floodspread for more than two miles.

In Faversham the gale "blew a perfect hurricane" and a man and a boy were killed when a "tall shaft" at the Patent Cotton Gunpowder Company collapsed.

A few days later the coastal cliffs at The Warren between Folkestone and Dover collapsed.

Two men were killed and several injured as many hundreds of tons of chalk blocked the railway line and tunnel.

Between 200 and 300 men were employed to clear the line which eventually re-opened two months later.

In 1878, Walmer suffered five minutes of terror as a tornado carved a trail of destruction across the small seaside town.

It began at Cold Blow Farm where outbuildings were wrecked, trees uprooted and telegraph lines torn down. A groom and blacksmith were badly injured.

At South Barracks a sentry was "lifted up box and all" for some distance and then imprisoned beneath the box.

With its last gasp, when it reached the beach the tornada hurled a boat into the sea and then blew itself out.

"So great a disaster has never before been experienced here," said the Gazette.

In January 1881 snow, many feet deep, blocked roads and railway lines.

The gale-force winds driving the blizzards were said to be the most severe for more than 40 years and caused flooding in Strood, Chatham and Sheerness.

In Canterbury snow was said to be six to 10 feet deep.

In Maidstone the Corporation allocated £100 for the relief of poor families suffering because of the weather. Forty extra horses and 130 more men were employed to clear the snow.

Sources: 6 January 1877, 20 January 1877,28 October 1878, 22 January 1881

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