West coast feels the effects of winter storms

There was confusion over the status of traffic movements on the Skye Bridge this week.

Following the debacle of two complete closures in October, Bear Scotland and Transport Scotland announced new alert services to tell the public if the bridge was to be closed in high winds.

However, the BBC Travel page said on Wednesday there was disruption to Skye Bridge, but gave no information as to what; Traffic Scotland said there were restrictions in both directions for 60 minutes, initially alerted at 5.15am; Bear Scotland issued no updates since 6am, while Police Scotland also issued no updates since 6am.

The bridge was closed to all vehicles for two spells on Wednesday evening and again for a short time today (Thursday). Disruptions for high-sided vehicles are likely over the next 24 hours.

Elsewhere, on Tuesday Highland Council announced the closure of 50 primary and secondary schools, including most schools in Skye, Lochalsh and Wester Ross. Many of those schools had closed early on Tuesday and remained closed the following day, while children at some schools also had an extra day off today (Thursday).

Winds gusting up to 80 miles per hour were recorded in the Western Isles on Tuesday night as the first storm of this year’s winter caused significant disruption to travel arrangements and numerous power cuts.

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The Port of Ness on Wednesday – picture Angus Maclean

After an unusually mild and dry November, the second week of December came in with a bang as a deep low swept across the Atlantic, with waves up to 60 feet high recorded at sea and battering coastal defences in exposed places.

A gust of 79mph was recorded in South Uist overnight on Tuesday and all ferry services to and from the Outer Isles were cancelled on Tuesday and again yesterday (Wednesday). Plane services from Stornoway airport ran as scheduled on Tuesday but were cancelled yesterday.

Schools were shut and all non-emergency health appointments cancelled. At one stage the entire Western Isles was without power, but it was restorted to most homes yesterday morning after the diesel power plants in Stornoway and Uist came on stream.

On Wednesday afternoon 1,100 island homes were still without power.

Rodney Grubb, head of operations for Scottish Hydro Eelectric Power Distribution, said: “I would like thank customers for their patience and understanding at a time like this. We knew the bad weather was coming and we meticulously prepared for it with hundreds of additional staff.

“Our engineers continue to tackle the more difficult damage on the network and will restore power to the remaining 4,200 customers off supply as soon as it is safe to do so.”

The Met Office warned that, while conditions will ease, more thunder and lightning can be expected. In terms of the forecast for the weekend, a spokesperson said it was “definitely an improving picture”.