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Winter weather batters Scotland as major ferry disruption hits the west coast

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Schools were closed, ferries cancelled and homes suffered power cuts as storms battered the west.

Residents in the Western Isles yesterday faced disruption as high winds disrupted arrangements to travel and events.

All schools across Uist and Barra closed, giving schoolchildren an early start to the weekend.

Major ferry disruption was experienced with over half of the Cal Mac ferry network cancelled by lunchtime.

Passengers were left stranded in locations without alternative travel arrangements due to the weather conditions as a “yellow be aware” warning was placed on the north of Scotland.

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A CalMac spokesman said: “During this time of year weather is very unpredictable, we would urge all passengers travelling to check the status of their sailing before setting off on their journey and keep up to date with service status through our twitter account while on the move @calmac_updates.”

Gusts of 78mph were recorded by an unofficial weather station on Barra.

Ferry services to Orkney and Shetland remained largely unaffected, though NorthLink Ferries issued a warning to travellers stating: “Due to forecasted adverse weather conditions arrival into Aberdeen on Saturday may be subject to minor weather-related delays.”

Air travel also faced disruptions with the 10.15am Glasgow to Barra flight’s take off delayed until 12.29pm due to the adverse weather.

Preparations for the Christmas lights switch-on in Stornoway were also hampered, with organisers forced to cancel the parade and Santa Dash due to the weather.

The turning on of the lights in Stornoway did go ahead, while events such as the carol singing and dancing performances switched inside the Town Hall from their initially planned Perceval Square venue.

Stornoway Amenity Trust said: “The poor weather conditions mean that we have had to change our plans but there is still plenty for all the family to enjoy in and around the Town Hall and to support local businesses.”

Early morning commuters between Point and Stornoway were faced with disruption as the Braighe Causeway was closed for a short period of time, as Coastguard volunteers battled against 70mph gusts to provide a safe passage for islanders travelling in both directions.

As high tide approached, the route was shut to high sided vehicles and the coastguard teams escorted vehicles across in a one lane convoy system.

Conditions deteriorated to a dangerous point just at the busy morning rush hour forcing complete closure of the road until the tide and waves receded.

Murdo Macaulay, area commander for the Coastguard rescue service, said: “The weather came in exactly as forecast.

“We experience very severe gusts across the whole Western Isles chain.“

He said: “As spray and overtopping waves pushed debris over the seawall, the Bràighe road was completely shut for a period due to public safety concerns.”

The peak of the storm coincided between 8-10am when most traffic levels were at their highest, resulting in “significant delays in and out of Stornoway,” he said.

Strong winds blew down a hydro pole in Gravir in South Lochs, Lewis, knocking out a number of homes in the village. Yesterday, a new pole was being installed.

Keeping the roads open

Bear Scotland is preparing for a busy winter period with over 58,000 tonnes of salt ready to treat roads across the north of Scotland.

A 195 strong workforce will operate the fleets 120 winter vehicles to ensure trunk roads are kept clear this winter.

Iain Murray, BEAR Scotland’s managing director, said: “This year marks the tenth anniversary of our 24/7 winter control room which continues to be central to our winter response activities.

“It monitors road conditions and weather reports allowing us to both prepare ahead and respond quickly when winter conditions hit – from the challenges of low temperatures and snow to extreme storms.

Sir Andy Flurry loading up with salt

“The team in the control room work in partnership with the operational team on the ground – comprising a total of 195 dedicated, trained and experienced employees ready to deal with winter across the trunk roads that we maintain.

“While we remain as committed as ever to doing as much as possible to keep routes passable during inclement weather we are keen to remind members of the public to ensure their vehicles are well maintained and that they pay close attention to local and national media and online information to help plan journeys and be prepared should conditions deteriorate.”

Last year the roads operator used over 80,000 tonnes of de-icing materials, conducting over 11,000 treatments.

The activity of gritters across the north can be tracked via the Transport Scotland website, displaying the current location of gritters. Newly named gritter For Your Ice Only joins the fleet which includes Mr Plow, Plougher O’Scotland and Sir Andy Flurry.

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