The main route through the north was closed yesterday, effectively cutting off the Far North, as massive snow drifts caused chaos courtesy of the Beast from the East.
Thousands of children throughout the Highlands and Moray were off school for the second day in row as plunging temperatures, snow and ice disrupted travel and cancelled events.
At Cairngorm Mountain the wind chill factor took the temperature “feel” down -41C.
The snow gates were closed at the twisting Berriedale Braes, stopping motorists travelling between Wick and Inverness and resulting in tailbacks a mile-and-a-half long at one point.
Volunteers were taking hot soup and sandwiches from Helmsdale to stranded motorists as police requested a travel ban.
A police spokesman said: “We are currently dealing with incidents on the A9 in the Berriedale Braes area in Caithness – motorists should avoid the area.”
Local health campaigners Caithness Health Action Team (Chat) raised fears for any pregnant mothers in Wick who might need to travel to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.
The campaign group stated on social media: “We are now technically an island.”
Ron Gunn of Chat added: “They have closed the snow gates at Berriedale, which means you can’t get up or down. There is a mile and a half queue of traffic.
“It is not a satisfactory position. I think they can probably deal with most things at Caithness General Hospital in Wick but the concern is for any expectant mothers, most of whom basically have to go to Raigmore to have their babies now.
“They certainly can’t get down by road and it’s not ideal for them to travel in an air ambulance. It puts an extra worry on anyone in this position.”
A spokesman for NHS Highland said they had no transfers planned for expectant mothers yesterday.
A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “We have robust measures in place to ensure that, even in the most extreme weather, we can continue to provide safe care for patients.”
Highland Council said a number of secondary roads throughout Caithness and Sutherland were also closed with snow drifts as high as 7ft in places.
A total of 54 schools and 32 nurseries were closed in the Highlands, with 7,788 children having a snow day. In Moray, where 32 schools were closed, more than 5,700 school pupils had a second day off with only Forres and Elgin escaping the worst of the weather.
There were continued disruptions to rail services between the north and the central belt, whoch had been on red alert during the day.
Snow gates on the A939 Tomintoul to Cockbridge road remained closed all day.
Meanwhile, drifting snow caused traffic headaches at Coresemaul summit on the A920 Dufftown to Huntly road, the A941 Bridgend to Carbrach road and on the B9009 Dufftown to Auchbreck road at Glenrinnes.
Ferry services to Orkney, Shetland and the Argyll and Western Isles continued to experience disruption.
There is still little sign of any respite, with amber and yellow warnings in place covering parts of the Highlands and Moray right through until Sunday.