The ten worst storms in Dundee’s history

Well it’s been a very stormy start to winter with storms Abigail, Barney, ClodaghDesmond, Eva and Frank hitting our shores, and no doubt more on the way. As much as we all like to have a good moan about the weather, it’s certainly not been the worst Dundee has ever seen! We’ve taken a look at the ten worst storms in Dundee’s history.

Discovery Dundee Lightning
Discovery Dundee Lightning by Foxhound Photography


  1. 4th December 2015 – Storm Desmond

Now this is going to get much easier in the future with the Met Office naming all the storms now, but the most recent storm to batter the city gets our lowest place on the list. Although it’s been a terrible time for much of Scotland, Dundee itself hasn’t been particularly badly hit compared to others. So Storm Desmond gets our 10th worst Dundee storm place.


  1. North Sea flood of 1953

While winds reached up to 126mph and massive waves 5.6m above normal sea level battered the east coast of Scotland in the beginning of 1953, Dundee avoided the worst of the damage. Dundee didn’t entirely escape as damage to buildings and tree’s being pulled up was reported across the city.


  1. 8th December 2011 – Hurricane Bawbag

We could have called this storm by its more official name, the weather front known as Fredhelm, but really the naming of this storm meant we had to include it. Schools closed, the Tay Road Bridge was closed to all traffic, and trains were cancelled between Dundee and Perth, and Aberdeen as the winds reached up to 70mph. So at least we all had a funny name and the video of the trampoline being blown down the street to keep us amused eh!


  1. 17th January 1993

While flooding caused mass devastation over in Perth with people having to be rescued from their homes after the Tay burst its banks twice, Dundee was again luckier. Gale force winds caused around 100 trees to fall in Tayside, and Dundee slaters and roofers were reported to be inundated with calls from householders after these winds died down.


  1. January 1987

Inches-deep snow had workforces in Tayside busy keeping the region moving. However an Evening Telegraph photographer reported nose-to-tail traffic from the dual-carriageway outside Dundee’s Angus Hotel to the Post Office in Monifieth. Schools were closed throughout Tayside, and Forfar and Kirriemuir were named as the places hit hardest by blizzards. Some areas reported up to 40cm of snow during the cold snap.

Dundee Lightning Strike
Dundee Lightning Strike by Foxhound Photography


  1. 17th December 1921 – The highest tides in Dundee

The highest tide recorded since 1883, i.e. since we’ve been taking accurate measurements, was on 17th December 1921. The lashing rain and high winds meant the highest tide recorded was at 10.4 ft. This caused flooding in the harbour area with Greenmarket flooded to a depth of 3 inches, water penetrated sheds at Eastern Wharf and King William Dock damaging jute and cement. Fisher St in Broughty Ferry was also flooded with fishing boats moored to lamp-posts damaged.


  1. 31st January 1983

Pupils were sent home from Tayside schools when this winter storm hit. The gales had caused damage to Whitfield High in Dundee, Menmuir and Glenprosen in Angus, and several schools in Perthshire. Car owners around Whitfield High reported that falling debris from the school had broken their windscreens. Trees toppled onto power cables in the Ashludie area of the city, causing outages. On the Brechin bypass, three lorries were overturned by the high winds.


  1. 28th November 2010 – Thundersnow

Now I have a personal dislike of this storm, which started with our neighbours tree falling onto the road, narrowly missing our car, and a few hours after clearing that by ourselves, and making a treacherous back road journey to Edinburgh Airport, the flight for my fun winter holiday break to Amsterdam was cancelled! This could only be described as the never-ending winter of 2010/11 with parts of Tayside covered in a foot of snow, and it stayed for bloody ages. Temperatures dropped to -17C in some parts! And we were all introduced to the awesome sounding, but not so fun to experience firsthand, thundersnow.


  1. 1600s storms damage the harbour

A storm in 1600 damaged the harbour so severely that an application was made to James VI for assistance and he granted a letter under the Privy Seal to allow a “towst”, or tax, to be imposed over a period of 28 years to pay for the necessary repairs. Another storm in 1658 once again seriously damaged the harbour, which at this time was of sufficient size to hold at least one hundred vessels. The harbour was vitally important to the economy of the city during these times, and damage to the harbour and resulting trade would have been devastating for many in the town.


  1. 28th December 1879 – Tay Rail Disaster

This has to be our number one storm, for the number of lives lost. Not the highest gales or most rain recorded, but the combination of the raging storm and engineering faults caused the Tay Rail Bridge to collapse under the pressure of the oncoming train. Much of the bridge and the entire train was plunged into the freezing dark water, claiming the lives of the 75 people on board.


So that’s our top ten Dundee storms, feel free to comment below if you can recollect any other terrible storms. Wonder when the next one will hit that makes it to our list?

Light_Lightning over the Tay Road bridge by Foxhound Photography

– DD Tours operates walking tours in Dundee city, covering dark local history such as wars, battles, murders, diseases, riots, disasters and executions. Walk with us for an unforgettable storytelling experience.


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