HUNDREDS of households in Scotland were without power for most of today after gale-force winds caused extensive damage to electricity networks.
The north of the country endured the worst of the weather, with gusts of 82mph recorded in Peterhead, 77mph in Inverbervie and 75mph on South Uist.
Scottish Hydro said 3,500 homes lost electricity late on Christmas Eve, but with hundreds of engineers out in force today, that number fell to around 1,800 by Christmas morning, and the last 800 had had power restored by late last night.
The utility firm had said its staff would “not be stopping” until power was restored, but stressed disruption to the network was “nothing close” to the conditions in eastern and south-eastern England, where around 50,000 properties remained without electricity today.
As of this afternoon, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency had 14 flood warnings in place, 13 of which covered Tayside, where river levels on the Tay, Tummel and Earn remained high. The other warning covered Strath Oykel near Ullapool.
Although conditions are expected to improve tomorrow, the Met Office has issued yellow “be aware” warnings for tomorrow, with yet more high gusts and rain forecast.
Elgin, Aberdeenshire and communities in the northern and Western Isles were the worst affected by the power cuts on Christmas Eve.
A spokesman for Scottish Hydro said: “The main areas to be affected were the Banchory and Buchan areas of Aberdeenshire and Elgin, Forres and Fochabers in Moray. Overhead lines have been affected by trees coming down. Our engineers won’t be stopping until everybody is back on.”
He added: “Our network has survived really well overnight, certainly compared to the south of England where it is a tough day for some folk.”
A normally busy road near the centre of Elgin remained closed to traffic today after a derelict building collapsed in the overnight storms. Three families living nearby were evacuated from their homes shortly before midnight.
A spokesman for Police Scotland said a substantial section of the building on Linkwood Road had fallen on to the road. He said: “The collapse is thought to be due to the strong winds experienced in the area.”
In the Highlands, part of the roof of Thurso High School became dislodged in the strong winds. A force spokesman said: “A large piece of the felt roof had blown off and become caught in a tree on Ormlie Road, Thurso. Two vehicles sustained damage.”
The gales also caused a partial failure of telephone services on the Isle of Skye.
Meanwhile, stranded passengers trying to reach the Western Isles finally reached their destinations today after ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne arranged a special Christmas Day service linking Skye, North Uist and Harris.
A CalMac spokesman said “Following the cancellation of services to and from the Western Isles on Christmas Eve due to extreme weather, we were pleased to be able to arrange for the MV Hebrides to operate between Lochmaddy/Uig/Tarbert to help people get away or home for Christmas.”
The rest of the country was buffeted by wind speeds of between 50 and 60mph, causing Christmas attractions in Edinburgh to temporarily close.
Fallen trees and debris also caused problems on some roads in the Borders, with a mudslide temporarily closing the A7.
Across eastern and south-
eastern England, 50,000 homes were without electricity today. Tim Field of the Energy Networks Association said it was “likely” that some of those affected will still be off the grid tomorrow.
With winds due to ease across Scotland tonight, conditions tomorrow are forecast to be cold with a few wintry showers over high grounds.
However, the Met Office has issued yellow “be aware” warnings as widespread gales are expected to develop late tonight and early Friday, bringing gusts of up to 80mph over coastal areas and high ground.
A spokesman explained: “Another deep area of low pressure developing over the Atlantic Ocean will bring another spell of wet and windy weather across the UK as it tracks northeastwards past north-western Britain later on Thursday and during Friday.
“Wind is expected to increase across the area [this] evening and [tonight]. Peak winds are thought most likely to occur during the early hours of Friday and Friday morning with the highest gusts probably being over Irish Sea coastal areas.”