1968

1968 was one of the more interesting years of the 60s. The winter of 1967-68 was characterized by frequent northerly outbreaks from 6 December to 7 February that brought some notable snowfalls right across the country. The Clyde Storm brought tragedy to Scotland in January. There was a very poor extended summer, which I dimly remember, dull and wet in the south and east, but with some extraordinary thunderstorms. However given the frequency of NE winds it was a fine summer in the north and west. It was a very fine summer in SW Scotland, such as at Troon. Here there was a remarkable turnaround in temperatures between late March and early April.

The summer of 1968 was a peculiar one in that it was a dull and wet summer in southern and eastern areas of Britain, but a sunny and dry summer in northern and western areas. This was probably most marked in August 1968 which was dull and wet in the East Anglia and the south-east but sunny in Scotland and Northern Ireland.


January. Quite mild. There was some unexpected light snow in southern central England on Saturday 6th. There was a notable snowstorm in the south on the 8-9th, affecting a large area of the country from North Wales down to the southeast of England Snow started in Southampton just before 2 pm. By the next morning in some areas there were drifts 3 m deep, with strong SE winds, and level snow of up to 30 cm in mid Wales, with 10 cm of cover over a wide area. After the cold start the month became much more mild from the 13th. The Clyde Valley storm in Glasgow on the night of 14-15th killed 20 people (9 in Glasgow alone) and injured 40 others, with over 1000 homes damaged. Electricity was lost across most of the city. 50 or so had to be abolished. The damage was said to resemble the effects of the Clyde Blitz in March 1941. The storm affected much of the north of Britain. At Glasgow the average wind speed between 2 and 3 am was 61 mph, with a gust of 102 mph; there was a gust of 117mph recorded on Tiree; and Great Dun Fell in Cumbria recorded a gust of 133 mph, at the time the highest recorded in Britain. Tornadoes were reported. Pressure dropped very quickly on the 14th as mild Atlantic air met a cold block over Europe, and as the depression passed, pressure rose very quickly (18.5 mbars in three hours at Stornoway).

February. Cold and largely dry but with some heavy snowfalls. There was a paticularly heavy snowstorm over the west Midlands on the 5th. Heavy snow fell at Keele for 12 hours, giving 37 cm. Crewe station was blocked. Many roads blocked, particularly in Staffs. Up to 45 cm of snow in some places. There was widespread disruption to traffic in Birmingham; but only a little way away, in Nottingham, the precipitation fell as rain. I don't remember these events at all - nor do I remember snow from the following February. Apparently it wasn't that cold, and not really predicted. In fact, rather oddly, I can't remember any snow in the 60s other than 1963.

March. There was widespread snow in Scotland on the 17th, with up to 15cm. Then all change as there was a notable warm spell at the end of the month. The equal record maximum temperature for March, 25.0C, was reached on the 29th at Cromer and Santon Downham (Thetford) in Norfolk, and 24.9C was recorded at East Dereham (Norfolk). Indeed 25.6C was recorded at Mepal (Cambridgeshire) that day, although there is some question about the reliability of this figure. The high temperatures resulted mainly from a warm southerly airflow. Unlike the heatwave of three years earlier, this one stayed mild at night. Four days later Arctic air swept back in and it was snowing in London! The record daily rainfall for the month of March of 164.3 mm was set at Glen Etive on the 26th.

April. A cold first half. There was a notable cold snap following notable warm spell at end of March: it was 25.0C in Cromer, Norfolk on 29 March, but -10.6C at Achnagiochan (Strathspey) on the morning of the 2nd of April; there was a light covering of snow across east England, with temperatures near freezing, accompanied by a strong north wind. A minimum of -9.4C was recorded at Caldecott (Rutland) near Corby, Northants., on the 4th. There was widespread light snow, and a blizzard in Scotland on the 2nd. 20 cm of snow lay in Edinburgh and it was cut off for a while. The cold air was introduced by a cold front moving south on the 2nd; the temperature fell 10C in 3 hours in the south on the 2nd. Also on the 21st, the Great Coventry Tornado, unusually occurring on a warm, calm day.

May. A very cold month (9.8C) overall; to add to the misery, it was dull and wet as well. There was snow as far south as the Midlands on the 18th. It only started to warm up on the 27th.

June. Slightly above average temperature - the only month of the summer to be so. It ended with a fine, hot spell.

July. Generally dull, cool, and wet, especially in the south, but with two exceptional thundery outbreaks. The first ten days were very active. A slow-moving cold front ended June's hot spell on the 1st, which saw temperatures of 33C in London, with severe and prolonged thunderstorms in the north and west, with darkness at noon, from mid-morning on the 1st to late afternoon on the 2nd. A hailstone at Cardiff airport on the 1st measured 7x6 cm. I wouldn't like that to fall on me. Lightning deaths on the 1st. The rainfall on the 1st was accompanied by a notable dustfall, comprising sand carried from the Sahara, when thunderstorms in Algeria at the end of June lifted the sand, which was then transported north at a height of 3-5 km on southerly winds. The rain was said to be coloured "red and brown", so that on the morning of the 2nd much of the south was covered with brown streaks. On 2 July, 35.7 mm rainfall fell in just under 9 minutes at Leeming Bar (Yorks), giving a sub-10-minute total of 238 mm/hr, a UK record for such a short time (until 2003). 184 mm of ran recorded on the Isle of Man. Deep drifts of hail on the roads in Yorkshire needed bulldozers to clear them. More exceptional storms on the 9th, this time in the southwest. Pressure was high, but then on the evening of the 9th a depression deepened as it moved across southern England. The 10th was very wet. 100 mm of rain fell across a large area of the country from Devon to Lincolnshire. 175 mm at Chew Stoke in Somerset mostly in 6 hours, 125 mm in 17 hours at Bristol, leading to flooding and damage. Many bridges were swept away. A large tract of land from Somerset through the south Midlands to Lincolnshire had more than 75mm of rain. The Cheddar Caves were flooded for the first time in living memory. There was then a notable gale on the 11th in thundery weather, particularly affecting the Southend area and the east of England, as the depression finally cleared away. Things quietened down a bit for the rest of the month, which overall was very cool (the next cooler one was 1980), and part of yet another poor 60s summer. It was however fine in the north and west, such as SW Scotland, particularly from the 18th. There were 75 mm of rain in a thunderstorm at Ilford on the 31st.

August. Very cool, dull, and wet, with persistent northeasterly winds. There were under 10 hours of sun in Folkstone in the first 9 days. However in places sheltered from the SW winds, such as SW Scotland, it was a fine month.

September. There was widespread and severe flooding in the southeast following heavy and prolonged rain (e.g. 75 mm) on Saturday the 14th and 15th. Much of Surrey, Kent, and London recorded 150 mm, with the record from Tilbury at 201.4 mm. 57 mm in 42 minutes at Purleigh. As a result much of Surrey ended up under water. East Molesey in Surrey was particularly badly affected by flooding by the River Mole. The effects of the Surrey Flood were devastating. A thunderstorm moved across London into Essex during the afternoon of the 14th. As that one faded, a new one developed over Kent, Essex, and southeast London. This one lasted 15 hours! At the time I would have been in Southampton that afternoon watching the first episode of "The Mind Robber" in "Dr Who". This was the last time before the Boscastle storm of 2003 that more than 8 inches of rain fell in a day.

October. Warm (12.8C CET): the one of the warmest of the twentieth century - yet often dull, with frequent SW winds. Even better was to follow the next year in an extraordinary run. There was 159 mm of rain at Tollymore Park on the 31st is Northern Ireland's highest daily rainfall total.

November. About average temperatures overall.

December. A cold month overall, but in some areas the first proper White Christmas since 1938. The first two weeks were cold, dull, and dry. It then became milder and unsettled with heavy rain in parts of the country. Parts of the Midlands, from NE Wales to Buckinghamshire, had a white (and largely unforecast white) Christmas as rain turned to wet snow on Christmas Eve. So some lucky people woke up to snow (e.g. about 10 cm in Birmingham, and 25 cm in places). It turned cooler on the 23rd. Rain came in on from the west and hit the cold air, leading to heavy snow overnight into Christmas morning. Sadly, Southampton missed it, which is why I don't remember it at all. There was widespread snow between Christmas and the New Year. A severe glaze over Wales on Christmas Eve