By a Newsnet reporter
Scotland is slowly returning to normal this evening after severe gales caused havoc with the nation’s roads and buildings.
Wind-speeds of over 100 miles an hour were recorded as the Met office upped their original amber warning to red.
Falling trees, structural damage and chaos as debris flew across roads meant that the authorities advised people not to travel. Glasgow Airport warned that cancellations are expected due to the high winds and Edinburgh Airport suffered damage to part of its terminal building that saw disruption to inbound traffic.
The severe weather saw several Ministerial meetings of the Scottish Government’s Resilience Committee (SGoRR). The meetings, some chaired by First Minister Alex Salmond and including Transport Minister Keith Brown, monitored and co-ordinated emergency services and information throughout yesterday evening and today.
The meetings heard details of the significant activity taking place across Scotland to deal with the impact of exceptionally high winds, which included gusts of 102mph at Blackford Hill in Edinburgh, 97mph on Islay and 91mph at Bishopton.
Contingency arrangements had already been put in place on Monday to deal with the consequences of the severe weather forecast by the Met Office, and significant numbers of staff are out today dealing with on-going issues on the transport network and with the utility companies.
A number of roads and key bridges that had been closed or affected during the morning have now re-opened, though there was still considerable disruption across the trunk roads network due to more than 20 fallen trees, localised flooding and around 10 incidents involving blown-over vehicles.
The Kingston Bridge, closed after two lorries overturned, has been re-opened.
On the rail network, a small number of trains which had been stranded due to the effects of the wind have now been recovered and passengers safely taken to stations, while around 200 incidents of fallen trees and line damage meant that most of the network across central Scotland was still closed. Ministers were told that 350 teams were out trying to clear lines and restore services.
Some ferry operators and airports were still experiencing cancellations and delays, though the picture was constantly improving.
Power companies Scottish Power and SSE reported that in excess of 1,000 engineers were active trying to restore power to 66,000 households – at the peak of the storm around 85,000 households had been without electricity.
Many police forces had issued ‘do not travel’ advice to motorists this morning, and some control rooms had seen calls from the public increase by 300-400 per-cent on normal levels, but ACPOS reported that all forces had now scaled back their travel advice as wind speeds dropped to around 50mph in the central belt.
Mr Brown said after the SGoRR meeting:
“The severe winds we experienced this morning may be easing off, but the efforts to restore transport links and power continue unabated, with thousands of staff working hard across this country this afternoon and evening to get services back to normal.
“Thanks to the resilience arrangements that were put in place on Monday, engineers and chainsaw gangs – including many additional staff brought in from other areas – have been out all day restoring power lines, repairing faults and clearing trees from railway lines, roads and power lines.
“We have seen exceptionally high winds across much of central Scotland – reaching 102mph in Edinburgh – and it is clear that there has been a lot of structural damage to homes and businesses as well as significant disruption to the transport and power networks.”
Mr Brown confirmed that the special resilience teams had already met prior to the red alert warning being issued just after 08:00 am. He also said that despite every effort being made to restore power, that some households may be without power overnight.
Mr Brown added:
“Similar efforts are being made across the rail network to get services restored, but again, travellers should be aware that many services will not return until later this evening and it is possible that, due to tree and other damage, some services might still be affected in the morning – commuters should check the latest transport advice before travelling.”
On behalf of ACPOS, Assistant Chief Constable Allan Moffat added:
“Although the severe winds have decreased, there has been damage to a number of buildings and some routes are still affected by debris and fallen trees. I would ask the public to continue to pay close attention to weather and road updates and act accordingly to the advice given.”
High winds had been forecast yesterday evening, and an amber alert had been issued. However a peculiar weather phenomenon added around 20% to the wind speeds that caught some by surprise and the warning was level was upped to red at 08:00 am.
Authorities had already acted swiftly to the strong winds with rail chiefs and police advising commuters and motorists not to travel.