A terrible force of nature...

Sheffield Hurricane damage 16th February 1962
Sheffield Hurricane damage 16th February 1962
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Fifty years ago today, the great Sheffield gale struck, leaving a trail of unimaginable havoc.

Four people died, hundreds were left homeless and thousands of buildings were ripped apart by winds of up to 96mph – forcing civic authorities to declare a state of emergency.

The Star has been deluged with dozens of readers’ memories about the freak gale on its 50th anniversary, writes Ellen Beardmore.

HOWLING gales woke Sheffield teenager Pam Kelly – and hours later she was one of hundreds of refugees fleeing battered homes.

The 15-year-old and her family spent two weeks living in a school rescue centre after their pre-fab Arbourthorne home was torn open by gales on February 16, 1962.

Now aged 65, Pam, of Gleadless Townend, said: “We’d gone to bed and the wind was terrible, I was scared stiff. All of a sudden there was this really loud bang and my dad came in shouting ‘get up’. Something had come through our front wall.

“My dad was looking out of the door and I can remember a chimney pot flying past. All our stuff had gone, but someone found my dancing clothes in a garden.

“It took me a long time to not be frightened of wind.”

Readers remembered clinging to walls to walk and standing on rubble as bins, slates and chimney pots flew through the air.

Margaret Howard, now 71, was a Red Cross volunteer in Firvale, and was pressed into action at a Burngreave refuge centre: “It was a traumatic time, but something I was glad to be part of. People were absolutely devastated, many had lost their homes. But the WRVS were fantastic, working 24/7, everyone pulled together.”

Jack Esperger and his bride Mary were due to marry on February 17 – but had to move the entire wedding after Trinity Church, Gleadless, was badly damaged.

Jack, 75, of Intake, said: “It was a very eventful day, because hardly anybody was on the telephone those days.

“It was absolute chaos, but everything went well in the end. I said to Mary ‘somebody is giving me a sign saying this is not working out’, but 50 years later it is still working out.”

Tom Hughes, 68, of Crosspool, was a young painting and decorating apprentice in Walkley: “It just ripped through everything, and took roofs off. Chimneys went through roofs and for about 10 months I never touched a paintbrush because we were repairing roofs. It was just unbelievable.

“Afterwards, everywhere ran out of slates in Sheffield. It was definitely a tornado, because I have never seen wind like it.”

Brian Barlow, his wife and young son had a lucky escape in Grimesthorpe. A chimney stack smashed through the roof and fell into a neighbour’s empty bedroom. Brian, of Wadsley, said: “Had the chimney fallen into our bedroom it would surely have killed, or seriously injured, one or all three of us.”

Many people will never forget the weather that left Sheffield reeling. John Duckenfield, 61, of Concord Road, said: “I’ve never witnessed anything like it, it was just like a war zone. I can still see it now when I close my eyes.”