The night a hurricane came calling

By John Ware   |   Reporter   |
Tuesday 29th March 2022 1:00 pm
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DEVASTATING weather – storm force winds and torrential rain – have caused chaos across the country in recent years.

Global warming is blamed, but freak storms are not new, and on January 27, 1984, a whirlwind smashed through the centre of Teignmouth causing great damage and misery during the night.

One headline screamed Destroyer Whirlwind, and went on to relate how the awesome power was only revealed at first light.

A hurricane force wind ripped through the middle of the town blowing off roofs, uprooting trees, bringing own power and telephone lines, hurling boats through the air, and causing severe structural damage. But incredibly nobody was even scratched.

The whirlwind struck at the height of a fierce electrical thunderstorm which rained huge hailstones on the resort.

According to some eyewitnesses, a thunderbolt seemed to strike over Bitton Park, and the whirlwind appeared shortly after.

It ran almost a straight line for about a mile from Bitton Park to New Road on a narrow 100 yard track.

Thousands of pounds worth of damage was caused. Exactly how much it will cost to put everything right will not be known for some time, but today every builder in the area was out making emergency repairs to dozens of roofs.

Some people did not even realised their homes had been damaged until this morning. One old lady in the New Road area woke to find the roof of her bungalow in the garden.

Teignmouth Rugby Club took the full brunt of the wind. A large section of the clubhouse roof was was completely lifted off. The sides of the stand were blown out, and nearly all the slates on a house in the ground were ripped off.

Boats parked at Polly Steps were blown onto the railway line; the former cricket pavilion in Bitton Park was badly damaged; the roof blown off the News Mag newsagents in Bitton Park Road, and nearly all the windows blown out of a Chinese takeaway opposite.

The roofs of houses in Bitton Park Road, Reed Vale, Coombe Vale Road, Landscore Road, Buckeridge Avenue, Hawkins Avenue, New Road and Ashley Way were damaged. The roof of Trinity School and nearby properties were badly damaged by falling trees.

A 100-year-old monkey tree about 60 feet high in Westbrook House was uprooted, but fell harmlessly across the garden. Another tree in Bitton Park was split in two after being hit by lightning.

It happened at about 6pm when luckily most of the rush hour traffic along the main Bitton Park Road had gone.

Masonry and debris was dumped all across the road, and a lorry was needed to clear it. Fortunately most people were sheltering from the storm and there was nobody on the street.

Another hour or two later and the rugby club would have been crowded for a ladies’ darts evening.

David Northcott was looking out of his bedroom window in Bitton Park Road during the storm when he saw the whirlwind.

He said: ‘It was sucking up everything in its path. I have never seen anything like it. It was quite incredible and frightening.’

Steve Croughan of News Mag said that at the height of the storm everything went quiet after the wind whooshed past taking off his roof.

Ian Daglish owner of the nearby launderette said a customer went to close the door when it was blown open, but the wind was so fierce it blew him back across the shop.

John Rowland, chairman of the rugby club, said they were meeting with their insurance legal expert to assess the carnage.

Matches would not be hit by the damage, and he was grateful for the changing and social facilities which had been offer by the football club, and also the landlord of the Talbot Hotel.

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