STORMS are expected to give way to the big freeze from tomorrow with forecasters warning temperatures could plunge as low as -12C by Sunday.
The Met Office said the cold spell would last until the start of next week, with up to 15cm of snow falling across parts of the western half of Scotland by Saturday.
It follows another day of travel chaos caused by winds of up to 79mph and blizzards which stranded motorists and bus passengers on the A9 and shut several other main roads today.
The Met Office issued a yellow - “be aware” - severe weather warning for snow and ice, which is in force until noon on Saturday.
Up to 6cm of snow could fall at low levels and up to 15cm above 200m, which includes higher roads.
A spokesman said: “From Friday, the focus turns to colder weather with the potential for widespread overnight frosts, freezing fog patches and some wintry showers in places.
“Ice will be an additional hazard on untreated surfaces.”
BBC Weather said overnight temperatures could fall to -12C on Sunday morning.
The A9 was closed in several places today, with eight ploughs battling to clear snow up to one metre deep.
Passengers trapped on an Edinburgh-bound Megabus service which broke down near Drumochter included Kathy White, 50, and her daughter Bella, 12, from Findhorn in Moray.
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They were delayed by nearly three hours but managed to get a lift from another a driver, then a taxi, to catch a flight to Paris as a birthday treat for Bella.
Ms White said: “It was just blizzard, white-out conditions. It was crazy - the snow was almost 5ft high on the side of the road.”
Driver Jamie Duncan, 20, was stuck with a friend in a lay-by near Blair Atholl overnight.
He said: “I haven’t had any food all night. I’ve got water from my windscreen washer so haven’t used that.
“We’ve got nothing but our jackets, so we turn the car on every so often to heat up a little bit and keep us warm.”
Wind speeds reached 75mph on Blackford Hill in south Edinburgh, 73mph in Tiree, 70mph on Islay and 68mph in Glasgow.
Buildings damaged by the gusts included metal sheeting ripped from the roof of the Marks Hotel in Glasgow city centre, forcing the closure of Hope Street and Bath Street - both main bus routes.
Part of the roof of Polmont Young Offenders Institution near Falkirk also came off.
Roof panels were blown off Lochaber High School in Fort William, forcing the closure of the A830.
Police Scotland warned drivers they could be charged if they crossed the Forth Road Bridge when their type of vehicle was banned - as happened to one whose van crashed on the bridge last Friday.
Bridge officials said drivers continued to ignore warning signs today, when only cars were allowed across in winds gusting to 71mph.
Both the Tay Road Bridge and Tay Bridge were shut when winds topped 80mph.
Damage to overhead power lines disrupted the Glasgow-Ayr line and Cathcart Circle in Glasgow, with services on six other lines off for much of the day.
Flights at airports in the Hebrides and Kintyre were disrupted and CalMac suspended sailings on ten routes, including to Arran and Islay. Ferries to Northern Ireland were also halted.
More than 3,000 people suffered power cuts - 2,000 in the Stewartry and Wigtownshire areas of Dumfries and Galloway, and 1,160 in northern Scotland.
At least 21 schools were closed, including in the Highlands and Argyll and Bute.
Flood warnings were issued for 21 areas, including the Clyde coast and Perthshire.
Extreme words for extreme weather
THUNDER SNOW It is caused in the same way thunder and lightning are triggered in the summer, when a pocket of warm air at ground level rises and collides with colder air above. Even though it is little over freezing in places, the air above is still significantly cooler.
WEATHER BOMB Known as explosive cyclogenesis by meteorologists, it happens when there is a rapid fall in pressure in the central section of an area of low pressure. It happens most frequently over sea near major warm ocean currents, such as the western Pacific Ocean near the Kuroshio Current, or over the north Atlantic Ocean near the Gulf Stream.
ICE QUAKE A relative unknown in the UK but more common in places such as Canada where temperatures are more susceptible to extreme lows. Features include a loud boom similar to the rumbling of an earthquake, caused when water in the ground expands in extreme cold.
FIRENADO This visual spectacle is a tornado full of burning hot flames. High winds at ground level can propel burning hot embers for miles. A firenado can be triggered by bush fires, and is very difficult to contain.
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