Friday, 10 April 2009

MULTIPLY United Friends Challenge #134: The Storm of the Century


Celticfrog's Challenge

Write about the effect of unexpected or odd weather. It isn't to be life threatening, just strange.


This story is based on the truth, the accident actually did happen, only names and situations have been changed. It happened to a very dear friend of mine.

"Look at this Jeremy“ said one of the meteorologists in the English central weather office to his colleague. “This does not look good.”
“No it doesn’t” answered Jeremy “What do you think? Shall we give the warning out now or wait a bit.?”
“Definitely not wait, this could develop into the storm of the century and people are going to have to be prepared.”
This was the conversation that started the emergency preparations at the beginning of October 1987 in England and would change the lives of a few people in the South East corner of England, mostly in the county known as Essex. A depression was developing over the sea and gale force winds were collecting beating the sea water into waves of an unusual height.

The 15th day of October arrived and all ears were tuned to the weather news of the BBC radio station. Jean Walker was one of the listeners and was glad that he mother had left on that morning to visit her sister in Scotland and was in a safer place. Jean went to work as usual and although the day was grey and stormy, it was a normal rainy English weather day. She wrapped herself up in her waterproof coat with the warm fuzzy lining and put on her boots. She was used to this weather. She said goodbye to her dog, Fluff, and left the house, although she felt a bit guilty. Fluff was acting restless, barking more than usual and running around in circles. On her way to the underground she had to avoid the paper and other objects being tossed around by the winds. It was even useless to open the umbrella as within a second it was blown out and offered no protection.

She arrived in central London where it was raining as if the heavens had opened. It was one of those storms where she imagined the old man with the long beard had started building his large boat somewhere on an open space and was looking for pairs of animals to put into it, just to ensure that some had the chance of survival.
“Miss, do you think we will be washed away, or struck with lightening?” was the question one of the children asked. Jean was a school teacher and she spent more time that day in soothing the nerves of the children than actually teaching. There were noises of fire engines and ambulances passing the school all day with their sirens blowing, being called to pump out cellars or help older people who could not manage with the high winds that were blowing, almost reaching hurricane speeds.. This did not help to calm the children either and she was glad when she could travel home in the late afternoon. There were delays on the trains and she was happy eventually to reach her house. Fluff was already barking and waiting for her behind the door and gave her a head to foot wash with his long wet tongue in welcoming his human.

During the evening the weather did not improve. Jean went to bed, but had to take Fluff with her. Although she knew this was not the most hygienic of places for the dog to be, she felt more secure and so did Fluff when they were together. She had a sleepless night hearing the crashing of tiles being blown from the roof and hitting the stony surface below. Now and again there was the crack of tree branches to be heard and Jean was wondering what would still be standing after the night had passed. Eventually she managed to sleep in the early hours of the morning, Fluffy cuddling up to her as close as he could. Daylight pierced its way through the curtains in the morning and flooded the bedroom with a bright light. The sun was shining, an autumn sun but it was there.

When Jean eventually plucked up the courage to look out of the window, she found to her relief that the surrounding houses were still standing, although the neat English gardens belonging to the neighbour’s houses were not so neat any more. Some trees had not survived and those still standing did not look so secure. Many plants had been ripped out of their beds, but she thought perhaps the lucky side being that it was Autumn, much could be replanted for the Spring. The schools were closed on this day and so she did not have to go to work. She put Fluff on his lead and went outside to inspect the damage to her own house. Many tiles had been blown down from the roof and she would have to see that they were repaired before the next rains came. She secretly hoped that this would not be in the next few days, knowing that the contractors would have enough work to do for the time being. She phoned up the repair office and they said they would be able to do any work by the end of the next week, but it would be important that she should pay in advance. They had so much work to do and so many orders to carry out, that they just did not have the funds to cover the purchase of new tiles for all the damaged houses.

Jean got herself ready as well as Fluff and they walked down to the bank to get the necessary cash. The streets were a picture of devastation, rubbish and rubble laying everywhere. She walked passed the bus stop and was wondering to walk further or take the bus. She was still thinking this over when fate struck; Jean herself realised nothing. She was walking along the avenue at the time, lined with trees. With no warning a tree standing next to the bus stop fell. Its roots had been shaken enough by the storm to weaken its anchorage in the ground. A strong unexpected blast of wind came and this was the end of the tree. The bus was still waiting and the tree fell onto the top of the double-decker red London bus. Perhaps Jean saw this, perhaps not, but the tree bounced from the bus onto the place where Jean was standing and she was buried under the tree.

Through the reaction Fluff was no longer being held by Jean on his lead and was running and barking, completely distraught and frightened.

Three weeks later Jean woke up in her hospital bed where she had been under intensive care. She was not alone. Her mother was there with some other relations, all familiar faces, but Jean just could not understand why all were crying. Even more tears were shed when she opened her eyes and asked what was going on. She had been in a coma for three weeks and no-one really knew what the outcome would be.

After the accident people had flocked to help. An ambulance was organised and she was taken to the hospital. The police were there and the first questions were who was the person buried by the tree. Fluff was still barking like mad and it was then that one of the spectators saw that he was carrying an identification tab on his collar with his name and address. The police soon found where Jean lived and through questions to the neighbours, also discovered where her mother was at the time. What happened to Fluff until Jean’s mother arrived? The people living in the house opposite where the accident took place sort of adopted him for a few days and looked after him until Jean’s mother arrived to claim him. Naturally Fluff was happy and overjoyed to see someone he knew again.

After a couple of months in hospital Jean was released. Her injuries were many. The skull fracture being the worst, but she had also fractured her arm and a few ribs were no longer as they should be. She was lucky not to have suffered any internal injuries. She visited her “rescuers” after returning home, to thank them for looking after Fluff. It was a strange feeling she had as she had never seen the people before in her life. Her picture came into the newspaper as being the survivor of the accident buried by the tree that rebounded from the bus, although she had a very interesting hair style on the photo, having to cover up part of her head where the hair had been shaved off for the operation.

Today you see nothing, although Jean still suffers perhaps from headaches. She still remembers nothing of the accident. She was just one of the victims of the great storm of October 1987 in Essex, South East England.

United Friends Challenge #134: The Storm of the Century

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