ONE of the Royal Navy’s most advanced warships was forced to seek shelter as storms lashed the west coast on the first day of spring.
A power cut blacked out the whole of the Western Isles and Skye – 25,000 homes in total – as gale-force winds and torrential rain pounded the region yesterday morning.
Red-alert flood warnings were issued in the Highlands following one of the wettest days of the year – and forecasters said last night the region should brace itself for a return to wintry conditions and freezing temperatures at the weekend.
Winds of up to 60mph whipped up wild seas and stopped all ferry services to the Western Isles on Wednesday.
Vessels were operating special or amended sailings yesterday to get stranded passengers home and clear a backlog of traffic.
The £1billion warship HMS Dauntless was among those caught in the severe gale 9 winds while sailing up the Minch after leaving Glasgow on Monday.
The 8,000-tonne Type 45 destroyer took refuge in the lee of Broadbay, on the east coast of Lewis, where she was at anchor last night.
Thousands of homes in the Western Isles and Skye were left without electricity from about 3.40am until the supply was reconnected about noon.
It followed a similar widespread power cut on Wednesday night.
Many pupils on Skye were told to stay at home today as several schools were closed due to lack of heat and light.
Radio mast sites used by the emergency services switched to backup batteries, while Stornoway Coastguard station kept going with a generator.
A spokesman for power giant SSE said: “We are carrying out a fault-finding investigation to identify the cause. We would like to apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused and ensure them we were doing everything we could to get the power back on as quickly as possible.”
A series of alerts were issued for the Highlands yesterday.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) singled out five areas at particular risk – Strath Oykel, Moy Bridge, Cannich, Strathglass and Fasnakyle – and issued “red” warnings, urging residents to expect flooding and take immediate action.
Alerts were also in place for parts of Caithness, Sutherland, Easter Ross and the Great Glen after heavy rain overnight and into yesterday morning.
Low-lying properties, roads and farmland in many of the areas were said to be under threat from rising river levels.
Dorothy Clark, of Kinnahaird Farm, Strathpeffer, was among those looking out on to flooded fields. She said the situation was “pretty bad.”
Met Office spokeswoman Nicola Maxey said parts of the Highlands experienced one of the wettest days of the year yesterday, with the Cluanie Inn at Glenshiel recording almost three inches of rain overnight.
She said an ice warning had been issued for the region and forecast widespread icy patches, as well as sleet and snow overnight and into this morning.
Ms Maxey added: “We could see snow even at sea level and the wintry showers will continue throughout Friday and into Saturday and Sunday.
“We’ve still got the gusty winds and we are looking at below-freezing temperatures during the nights, down to -2 or -3C.”