SEVERE winds of nearly 90mph and heavy rain battered parts of Scotland yesterday, causing widespread travel disruption for commuters returning to work after the Christmas holidays.
Bridges were closed to traffic and a host of ferry services and flights were scrapped due to the gale-force winds, while tourist attractions and sporting fixtures fell foul of the weather.
Flooding and fallen trees caused problems on roads across the country, although a return to the chaos of earlier this month, when gusts of up to 120mph caused widespread damage and disruption, did not come to pass.
Conditions are expected to improve in the lead up to Hogmanay, although the Met Office has issued a yellow warning for the Highlands, Orkney and Shetland for today, with very strong north-westerly winds forecast, possibly causing travel disruption.
According to the Met Office, winds in Scotland reached a high hourly mean speed of 136mph yesterday, a figure recorded at the Cairngorms summit. Speeds of 109mph were recorded at the top of Aonach Mor and 87mph in Glen Ogle.
On lower ground, gusts reached 76mph on Loch Glascarnock, 70mph on Tiree, 67mph in Oban, 60mph in Glasgow, and 53mph in Edinburgh.
The conditions prompted the Met Office to issue five amber warnings spanning the majority of the country, with yellow warnings issued for Grampian and Orkney and Shetland.
The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) put out 13 flood warnings, 12 of which covered the Tayside region, with an additional 13 flood alerts spanning the whole of the country.
The Forth Road Bridge, the Skye Bridge, Erskine Bridge, Friarton Bridge and Kessock Bridge were closed to high-sided vehicles because of the wind.
Fierce winds caused the closure of the Tay Road Bridge to all vehicles in the morning before it re-opened to cars later in the afternoon.
Warnings were also issued by Traffic Scotland to motorists using Clackmannanshire Bridge.
On the roads, the A78 was closed between the Eglinton Terrace junction in Skelmorlie and the A760 Dalry Road junction in Largs, because of flooding.
The A83 in Inverneill was closed in both directions between the Inverneill junction and the Ardrishaig junction because of a fallen tree.
In Rutherglen, a fallen tree also led to the closure of the B759 Cathkin Road in both directions between the A749 East Kilbride Road junction and the Waterside Road junction.
The A890 was closed in both directions between the A87 junction in Auchtertyre and the A896 junction in Strathcarron due to a landslip.
In Glasgow, a dangerous building led to the closure of Glassford Street and Hutcheson Street between Argyle Street and Ingram Street. Stockwell Street at Clyde Street was closed for a period to all traffic due to a dangerous building, with diversions put in place. It re-opened at around 1:30pm.
Several ferry services in the Western Isles and the Clyde were also cancelled. Caledonian MacBrayne stopped the vast majority of its scheduled sailings, with 19 services scrapped due to the adverse weather.
Those that survived – Oban to Lochboisdale, Colintraive to Rhubodach, Oban to Tiree, Largs to Cumbrae Slip, and Sconser to Raasay – were subject to disruptions and delays.
A Cal Mac spokesman said: “High winds have severely affected services across out network with the majority of sailings now cancelled and the few remaining on more sheltered routes subject to delay or disruption.”
The Northlink Ferries evening crossing from Aberdeen to Kirkwall was cancelled, with services from Lerwick to Kirkwall and Kirkwall to Aberdeen also scrapped. The firm also experienced disruption to its services from Stromness to Scrabster. Today’s 6:30am sailing from Stromness and 8:45am from Scrabster were under review as of yesterday evening.
The Argyll Ferries service between Gourock and Dunoon was also subject to disruption due to the weather, with sailings reduced to an hourly service. P&O services in the Irish Sea, which were carrying many fans to last night’s Old Firm game, were running to schedule.
A number of flights to and from island airports were also cancelled. They included British Airways flights from Glasgow to Barra and Campbeltown, and the FlyBe flight from Glasgow to Donegal. An afternoon BA flight from Tiree to Glasgow was cancelled, while FlyBe’s later flight from Barra was also called off.
Meanwhile, ScotRail services suffered delays as a result of the extreme weather, with trains in the Crianlarich area hardest hit.
Many Scottish attractions were also forced to close, with Edinburgh Castle shutting as a result of the high winds.
In Glasgow, shoppers ran for cover in Sauchiehall Street when a pane of glass fell 40 feet from a window. Emergency services attended just before 10am to find the pedestrian thoroughfare covered in glass, although no-one was injured. In the city’s George Square, the ice rink, funfair and big wheel were closed as a safety precaution.
Football fixtures were affected by the severe weather. Motherwell FC had to call off their game against Dunfermline last night because of storm damage at Fir Park caused by the winds.
The decision to scrap the Scottish Premier League match was taken due to safety reasons after Motherwell’s stadium suffered structural damage. The fixture has been rescheduled for 7:45pm on 24 January.
Motherwell’s chief executive, Leeann Dempster, said: “We were obviously desperate to get the game on, but there has been significant structural damage to the ground that could have posed a risk to supporters. So with that in mind, we have agreed with Dunfermline to postpone the fixture and replay it at the earliest opportunity.”
A spokeswoman for the Met Office said that amber weather warnings for much of Scotland were to remain in place until midnight last night, but added conditions were due to turn milder.
“On Thursday there will be a lot of showers around turning wintry on higher ground,” she said.
“Through Friday, a front will move through meaning it will be unsettled and slightly milder than conditions we’ve had.
“Into Saturday, it will be more cloudy with outbreaks of rain, but it will still be quite windy and mild. Sunday will be another breezy day with showers in the west and north.”