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It’s an ill wind – 30 years on from the 1987 Great Storm, the UK faces more severe and costly windstorms

Ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Great Storm of the 15 and 16 October 1987, the ABI is warning that the impact of climate change on the UK is likely to mean a higher number of more expensive wind storms.

The Great Storm led to the deaths of 18 people in the UK. At the time it was the worst storm to have hit the UK in nearly 300 years. It caused extensive damage and disruption, mainly throughout southern and eastern England. The insured cost at the time was £1.4 billion (£2.83bn in today’s money). An estimated 15 million trees were destroyed. The public enquiry that followed led to an overhaul in the prediction and warning of severe weather events.

Now, thirty years on, analysis for the Association of British Insurers (ABI) by AIR Worldwide shows temperature increases of just a small number of degrees are likely to lead to insurance losses for high winds which could be 11%, 23% or even 25% higher nationwide. These temperature changes fall within the long-term projections of what climate change experts expect to happen.

These increased losses are not spread evenly across the country but are likely to be concentrated in Northern Ireland, northern England and the Midlands, with southern England potentially seeing decreasing losses from storms. Met Office analysis shows that even small increases in temperature are likely to shift stronger winds further north.

How predicted rises in temperatures could impact on the costs of weather-related insurance claims:

When looked at over the long term, floods and windstorms tend to result in similar levels of claims costs for the insurance industry, but while floods create lower numbers of expensive claims, wind damage affects far higher numbers of people less severely.


Matt Cullen, Head of Strategy at the ABI, said:

“Thirty years on from the Great Storm how we predict, plan for, and respond to severe weather has changed dramatically. Insurers are better prepared than ever to react quickly and effectively when bad weather strikes. But we must not overlook the inevitable long-term impacts of climate change. Concerns about global warming often focus on rising water levels and the threat of flooding but current research makes it clear the impact of high winds must not be overlooked.

“Severe storms threaten lives and result in claims costing billions of pounds. The likelihood of these claims increasing in the future is something the insurance industry, and society, need to start preparing for now. Planners and builders should be aware of the need for more wind-resistant construction in specific areas of the country if claims are to be kept to a minimum and residents spared the distress and expense of higher levels of wind damage.”

The full report is available here.




Notes for Editors


1. Enquiries to:
Malcolm Tarling                        020 7216 7410    Mobile: 07776 147667
Lauren Gow                              020 7216 7327    Mobile: 07889 641702
Sarah Cordey                            020 7216 7375    Mobile: 07860 189071


2. The Association of British Insurers is the voice of the UK’s world leading insurance and long-term savings industry.

A productive, inclusive and thriving sector, we are an industry that provides peace of mind to households and businesses across the UK and powers the growth of local and regional economies by enabling trade, risk taking, investment and innovation.


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4. More news and information from the ABI is available on our web site, www.abi.org.uk.

Last updated 13/10/2017