The storms which brought chaos to Sunderland in 1968 and 1983
In the 20th century, hurricane force gales seldom hit Wearside but when they did the city experienced widespread damage.
In January 1968, more than 2,000 houses were damaged under gusts of up to 92 mph.
Sunderland was strewn with broken glass and debris. In High Street, dummies from a smashed shop window were blown into the roadway. Still clad in the latest fashions, they were rolling around in the gutters.
The launch of The Argonaut at J.L. Thompson’s shipyard was postponed and the sheds at Doxfords were badly damaged. In the South Dock the 4000 ton collier Bearwood broke from her moorings and was blown 700ft from one side of the dock to the other.
Thousands of empty milk bottles, left out on steps the previous night, had been blown away and smashed and the streets were strewn with broken glass.
Sunderland’s football ground, Roker Park, was badly damaged.
An operation centre was set up in Frederick Street to get the town back to normal but repair work took months to complete.
The next serious hurricane was in February 1983 when 90mph gales hit. The wind ripped off part of the leisure centre in Crowtree Road and scattered debris all around the surrounding streets. The Central Bus Station was forced to close and Crowtree Road was described as looking like ‘Bomb Alley’. Lorries and cars were overturned, trees were torn down, roofs ripped off and windows shattered.
Police had to divert pedestrians to avoid flying debris from the buildings. Many people needed hospital attention after being blown over or hit with flying masonry. Shipyard works at Austin and Pickersgill were sent home.
The Tyne and Wear Fire Brigade had almost one hundred calls and a spokesman said: “It has been absolutely chaotic. We have never known anything like it.”