The Glasgow gale of 14/15th January 1968

It’s been 50 years since the Glasgow gale of 1968. I can’t find any better way of describing the events of the night of 14/15th of January 1968 over central Scotland than the one in the Wikipedia article:-

“The 1968 Hurricane (or Hurricane Low Q) was a deadly storm that moved through the Central Belt of Scotland during mid January 1968. It was described as Central Scotland’s worst natural disaster since records began and the worst gale in the United Kingdom. Some said that the damage resembled what happened during the Clydebank Blitz in 1941. Twenty people died from the storm, with nine dead in Glasgow. 700 people were left homeless”.

What astonished me was that although the storm directly claimed the lives of 20 people, an additional 30 people died in the clear up operations after the storm, 11 of those whilst carrying out roof repairs.

Here are the synoptic charts for 18 UTC on the 14th, and 00 and 06 UTC on the 15th (figs 1-3).

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the Met Office Crown Copyright ©
Figure 2 – Courtesy of the Met Office Crown Copyright ©
Figure 3 – Courtesy of the Met Office Crown Copyright © [06 UTC}

Here are the SYNOP observations for 00 UTC and 06 UTC on the 15th (fig 4). Apart from the severe gales I’ve highlighted in yellow, the storm force 49 knot (250°) mean wind speed from Leuchars at 06 UTC stands out, as does the mean of 47 knots (260°) from Shawbury at 00 UTC. There was obviously a lot of funneling of the west southwesterly winds going on across central Scotland, and probably some rotor effect over Snowdonia (260°).

Figure 4 – Courtesy of the Met Office Crown Copyright ©

This infographic listing the highest gusts from the Met Office took some finding but I tracked it down in the end (fig 5). The one thing that you can’t accuse the Met Office of is over dramatizing a severe weather events such as this – “It was a windy day generally…” – and the last time I looked winds of 48 knots or more are classed as Beaufort storm force 10.

Figure 5 – Courtesy of the Met Office