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10 big weather moments of the last century

Posted on 23 May 2016

The most dramatic weather in living memory

Ahh the Great British weather. We love nothing better than talking about what it’s up to at any given moment - in fact it’s become a national pastime.

As kids, we always seemed to have 'proper' winters that froze the water in the outside lav and laid a blanket of snow on the hills for us to hurtle down on homemade sleds. Summers were long and hot, with blue skies and endless hours spent playing outside. Or at least that’s how it seemed.

Of course, the reality was far less romantic. The 20th century saw some of the cruelest winters ever recorded, as anyone old enough to have witnessed the harsh winter of 1947 will testify.

Here are 10 of the most powerful, poignant and perfect weather events you may well remember.

The blizzards of 1933

Two days and nights of continuous snow left whole towns cut off, hemmed in by 14ft drifts. With many roads and railways impassable, much of the country ground to a halt. People stuck in their houses had to be dug out by workmen.

men-and-children-stood-on-and-around-snowdrifts-in-a-residential-street

Source: neforum2.co.uk

 

The cold snap of 1940

Temperatures dropped so low that the Thames froze, telephone wires were brought down and an icy 'glaze' left roads and paths like a skating rink. Weather reports were banned during the war (in case they helped the enemy), so no one knew it was coming!

4-schoolboys-on-snowy-road-pulling-a-girl-along-as-they-run

Source: independent.co.uk © Getty Images

 

A bitterly cold 1947

With shelves still empty and coal reserves low, this came at the worst time for war weary Britain. The snow was so deep it topped the telegraph poles, there was no school for weeks. Brits faced grim evenings with little food, no light, no heat and kids sleeping in their balaclavas.

men-stand-on-a-snowdrift-next-to-a-snow-covered-london-bus

Source: dailymail.co.uk

 

The London smog of 1952

British cities were used to smog but this was something else. Londoners covered their faces to avoid inhaling the fumes and had to feel their way along railings and hedges, or follow the tramlines to get to school or work. The visibility was so bad policemen used flames to direct traffic.

policeman-using-flames-to-direct-the-traffic-in-the-smog

Source: Alamy.com

 

Lynmouth floods of 1952

As the storm raged, cottages, cars, boats, animals and bridges were swept away in a flood that claimed 34 lives. Some people lost everything overnight. Boulders tossed around like toys and trees floating upright down the river made for very surreal sights.

a-raging-river-with-white-houses-in-a-state-of-destruction-behind

Source: dailymail.co.uk © Getty Images

 

The great storm of 1953

This was Britain's worst disaster in peacetime, taking the lives of more than 320 people. High tides and gale force winds brought havoc to the east coast, from Lincolnshire down to Kent. With phone lines down, people were tragically unaware of the devastation about to hit them.

two-children-row-through-a-flooded-village-on-salvaged-wood

Source: eadt.co.uk

 

The long hot summer of 1959

This was the summer we thought would never end. From the middle of May, the glorious weather continued right through until the third week of October. And to top it all, Cliff was number one with "Living Doll".

ladies-in-sunglasses-sit-on-steps-drinking-from-cartons-with-straw

Source: telegraph.co.uk

 

The big freeze of 1962/63

Following a very white Christmas, we were in the grips of arctic conditions until the end of March. As temperatures dipped to -20C, the sea froze over, roads were cut off and exhausted milkmen had to take the day off after battling to make their deliveries in the snow. Even snowball fights eventually lost their thrill…

a-young-boy-crouching-down-and-getting-hit-by-a-snowball

Source: Alamy.com

 

The summer of 1976

As temperatures soared, everyone ditched their cheesecloth shirts and flares to sunbathe under cloudless, blue skies. It was all so perfect until we entered the worst drought in 150 years. Ladybirds invaded, hosepipes were banned and we had to fetch water from the standpipe at the end of the street.

woman-and-children-with-buckets-collecting-water-from-a-standpipe

Source: healthyplanetfoundation

 

The winter of discontent - 1978/79

On top of the misery of strikes leaving streets buried under rubbish mountains and power cuts frequently throwing us into darkness, we were hit by the coldest weather since the 'big freeze'. New Year's Eve celebrations were completely disrupted and, while kids were happy to see the snow, it was last straw for many people.

piles-of-rubbish-on-side-of-street-as-woman-with-umbrella-walks-past

Source: independent.co.uk © Getty Images

 

What are your memories of the winters that brought the nation to a standstill, or the summers that saw us basking in hours of glorious sunshine? Share your favourite weather stories with us; we'd love to hear them.

If you enjoyed this look back at the highs and lows of the infamous British weather, you might also enjoy these memories of playing outside and the great events of 20th century Britain.

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