People travelling home for Christmas are being warned to expect disruption as Storm Barbara is set to batter the country later this week.
The Met Office has weather warnings in place for the rest of the week, with amber “be prepared” warnings for the north and west of Scotland on Friday and Saturday.
Gusts of 80mph are predicted quite widely, with westerly winds gusting to 90mph likely across parts of western and northern Scotland later on Friday and overnight into Saturday.
Ferry services to the Western and Northern Isles are already seeing delays and cancellations while flights to the islands are also likely to be disrupted.
Rail services could be affected while driving conditions are expected to be difficult, especially on higher routes, with restrictions and closures possible on some bridges.
In England, flights from three London airports were hit by delays after fog shrouded the capital on this morning, Britain’s largest airline said.
Festive travel plans faced being thrown into chaos after Heathrow, Gatwick and London City Airport all experienced a raft of hold-ups due to the weather.
A spokesman for Heathrow said some early-morning flights had been been pushed back and there could be knock-on delays throughout the day, but added that there have yet to be any cancellations.
British Airways said on its official Twitter feed that it was aware of fog affecting flights at all three London airports and advised passengers to check their flight status online.
A statement on BA’s website said: “Fog across parts of southern England is affecting some flights to and from London’s airports today.
“For safety reasons, Air Traffic Control has to allow greater space between landing aircraft in fog or during periods of low visibility, and this will mean a reduced number of aircraft being allowed to land each hour.
Scotland is predicted to be the worst hit by the weather, with gusts of up to 90mph forecast in places.
Pockets of Northern Ireland, North Wales and the North of England are also due to feel the force of Barbara, which is due to roll in to the UK by Friday.
The worst of any destruction is expected between Friday evening and Christmas Eve morning, but the potential for structural damage and disruption to some transport services means the storm’s impact could be felt long after the winds have subsided.
Met Office spokesman Grahame Madge said: “We are expecting gusts of around 80mph widespread within the amber warning area, up to 90mph in places.
“We have had the good fortune to be able to issue the weather warnings ahead of Storm Barbara coming, with plenty of time hopefully for people to change their plans if they need to.
“But the nature of the storm means it still has the potential to have an impact on power supplies, structures, and disrupt bridge and ferry crossings.”
The UK Coastguard issued its own safety warnings ahead of the weekend.
Coastal operations area commander Ross Greenhill said: “We always advise people to check the weather and tidal conditions before they set out so that they can either prepare accordingly or consider whether they should even be going out at all.
“At sea, changes in tidal streams can make conditions worse, particularly if the wind and tide are against each other and tidal heights may hide underwater hazards.”
Storm Barbara has been named in line with the Met Office’s alphabetical policy for the strongest weather systems and is only the second name designated this season, which began on October 1, after Storm Angus.
The Scottish Government said its resilience arrangements had been activated to ensure the country is as prepared as possible for the severe weather expected.
Transport minister Humza Yousaf said: “The weather fronts, including Storm Barbara, will bring particularly strong winds across much of the country over the next few days when people are travelling home for the festive season.
“The north-west and the isles will be particularly affected and the Met Office is warning of gusts of up to 90mph at the height of the storm, with wintry showers, heavy rain and lightning also expected.
“The Scottish Government’s resilience operation is actively monitoring developments with updates from the Met Office, Sepa and the utilities companies, as well the emergency responders in the areas likely to be affected by adverse weather.
“The transport authorities are doing all they can to help people get to where they need to be but safety has to be the first priority.
“Passengers should expect cancellations and disruption to ferry services and the operators’ websites will have all of the latest information.
“Those planning to fly should check ahead and rail passengers will get the latest information on the ScotRail website or social media.
“Motorists should allow extra time for their journeys and check the Traffic Scotland website before they set out.”
Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne is advising customers to pay close attention to weather forecasts.