Tree Smashes Through Winchester Bedroom
A former ambassador's described how he escaped serious injury after a 30ft section of a tree smashed into his bedroom as he slept.
Richard Wilkinson, 65, was half awake listening to the storm when the 60ft beech snapped in half at around 4am and crashed into his detached bungalow in Winchester early on Tuesday, December the 13th.
Luckily his wife Angela, 52, was away because the tree smashed down on to her side of the bed.
Speaking outside his badly damaged home in Westley Close after returning from hospital for treatment to a cut ear, Mr Wilkinson described events.
"I was between sleeping and awake, listening to the storm outside when there was an enormous crash like the Eiffel Tower falling into the Crystal Palace.
"I felt a blow to the side of my head, there was blood in my ear and I knew what had happened.
"I was fortunate my daughter was quite untouched and I called out to her and she rang the fire brigade. Of course, it was still raining and I was in my pyjamas, so I had to borrow some of my son's clothes.
"It was a frightening moment but it finished quite quickly. I am very lucky - it could have been very much worse.
"I hope I'm insured,'' he joked.
Mr Wilkinson, who is known to his friends as Dick, held ambassadorial posts in Venezuela and Chile before he retired in 2005.
He has received plastic surgery on the ear injury, but he is otherwise uninjured despite more than a ton of wood crashing on to his bedroom.
His daughter Eleanor, 20, who is studying classics at Oxford University added:
"I heard a resounding crash and ran over to my dad's room and he could not get out of the door,'' she said.
"He was quite dazed and the electricity was off and he said one of the trees had fallen down.
"He was quite calm really and the emergency services came and managed to lift him out of the bedroom.
"The ambulance then came and mopped him up and he was taken to hospital.''
"My mother is away at her brother's for work at the moment and the tree landed on her side of the bed.''
Mr Wilkinson is presently chairman of governors of the University of Winchester after being head of Spanish at Winchester College.
He has lived in Winchester for more than 20 years. He joined the diplomatic service in 1972.
He was made a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1991 in recognition of his service at the British Embassy in Paris where he was a press attache.
It was a very stormy night across the whole South Coast.
Coastguards were called out in the gale force winds last night to reports people were trapped on a burning barge. It started sinking near Northam Bridge in Southampton just before 6pm. It turned out no-one was onboard and the fire went out when it sank.
A number of Flood Alerts for the Hampshire coast were issued overnight but no major flooding was reported. Flood gates at Lymington and Portsmouth were also closed as a precaution in advance of high tides.
Latest forecasts also predict that the unsettled weather will return at the end of this week with a further band of heavy rain coupled with severe gales expected for Thursday and Friday. The Environment Agency is not currently expecting any flooding from rivers but is warning of the potential risk to exposed areas along the coast.
Environment Agency Area Manager James Humphrys said:
"With stormy weather, our teams will continue to work hard to ensure we are prepared. We are receiving regular weather updates from the Met Office, continuously monitoring both tidal conditions and river levels and have officers out checking flood defences, closing flood gates and clearing any river blockages."
The rain could also lead to some localised flooding from run-off and drains unable to cope with the increased volumes of water. The Environment Agency is in close communication with local authorities and emergency services should there be any surface water flooding.
Mr Humphrys continued:
"People should be aware that there could be a lot of water around, so avoid trying to drive or walk through any flooding and be sensible when out and about, particularly around the coast. Now is a good time for anyone who lives in an area vulnerable to flooding to think about the precautions they can take to protect their properties."
The Environment Agency provides a 24-hour flood warning service. Floodline Warnings Direct is a free service that gives advance warning of flooding by telephone, mobile, fax or pager.
To register for the service or for advice on things you can do to limit the damage to your property call Floodline on 0845 988 1188, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Further advice and latest information on flood warnings is also available at www.environment-agency.gov.uk/flood.