The December 1981 windstorm was a severe storm that particularly affected southern England, Wales and south west France during 13 December 1981. The storm formed as a secondary low.[1]

In England, the storm started with violent winds and snow, which reached Cornwall during the morning. Prior to its arrival a number of record low temperatures were reached for December, with -25.1C at RAF Shawbury in Shropshire[2] and -5.9C in Southampton[3].[citation needed]

In the evening spring tides combined with a 1.45 m (4.8 ft) storm surge[4] resulted in the highest water levels recorded in the Bristol Channel since the start of the 20th century.[1] Water from melting snow, caused by milder weather accompanying the depression, added to the flooding.[5] The maximum surge at Hinkley Point was measured at 1.3 metres (4 ft 3 in) above the 7.4 metres (24 ft) tidal level Ordnance Datum (OD) at 2025 hours, and 1.3 metres (4 ft 3 in) measured at Avonmouth. The wind was measured at 40 knots (74 km/h; 46 mph) from the west. Over topping of the sea defences along a 7 miles (11 km) stretch of the North Somerset coast at 22 locations from Clevedon to Porlock began after 19:30, and continued until about 21:30 when the wind speed had reached 50 knots (93 km/h; 58 mph) from the west. Although there was no loss of life, the resultant flooding covered 12,500 acres (5,100 ha) of land, affecting 1072 houses and commercial properties, with £150,000 worth of livestock killed and £50,000 of feed and grain destroyed. Wessex Water Authority estimated the total cost of the damage caused at £6m, resulting in a three-year programme of sea defence assessment, repair and improvement.[6][5]

In France, the storm caused widespread flooding in the south west, causing considerable damage in the river basins of the Garonne and Adour and flooding the city of Bordeaux.[7]

The MV Bonita, an 8000 tonne Ecuadorian cargo ship sailing from Hamburg to Panama was caught in the storm in the English Channel. 29 were rescued from the ship, 4 by helicopter until the storm was too strong for the helicopter to operate. The remaining crew were rescued by the Guernsey lifeboat, however there were 2 fatalities.[8]

Water entered the cooling water pump house of Hinkley Point nuclear power station, causing a shut-down for weeks after the storm.[9]

See also


  1. ^ a b Storm surge prediction in the Bristol Channel--the floods of 13 December 1981 R. Proctor, R.A. Flather, Continental Shelf Research, Volume 9, Issue 10, October 1989, Pages 889-918, ISSN 0278-4343, doi:10.1016/0278-4343(89)90064-2, accessed 2011-03-25
  2. ^ Philip Eden: Snowiest of 20th century-, accessed 2011-03-25
  3. ^ Weather forecasters predict -12 tonight in Hampshire Southern Daily Echo, published 2010-12-02, accessed 2011-03-25
  4. ^ "CLIMATE CHANGE ON THE SEVERN ESTUARY Sea level" (PDF). Severn Estuary Partnership. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 May 2011. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  5. ^ a b 1981 Storm in photos - December 13th 1981 Archived 18 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine published 2006-12-13, accessed 2011-03-25
  6. ^ "Somerset and the sea" (PDF). Environment Agency. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  7. ^ Inondations généralisées sur le Sud-Ouest Météo-France, accessed 2011-03-25
  8. ^ "Guernsey lifeboat's 1981 rescue of Bonita crew remembered". BBC News. 13 December 2011. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  9. ^ "Storm event: 13TH DECEMBER 1981 Severe coastal floods in Somerset". Retrieved 23 May 2015.