THE Arctic blast which brought chaos to large swathes of Scotland this week is expected to lessen its icy grip this weekend, offering a brief respite to rural communities struggling with accumulations of up to ten inches of snow.
As heavy snowfalls and blizzards continued to sweep through South and Central Scotland and up to the North east, more than 70 schools from the Borders to Aberdeenshire either closed completely or sent pupils home early to avoid the treacherous conditions.
At the height of the blizzards eight lorries became stuck in the snow on the A82 between Crianlarich and Tyndrum and a woman had to be airlifted to hospital with a head injury after a two-vehicle collision on the A98 Macduff to Fraserburgh road near Longmanhill in Aberdeenshire.
Early morning flights at Aberdeen International Airport were disrupted after the runways had to be closed for snow clearing operations.
In Aberdeenshire the A939 Ballater to Corgarff road, the B9784 Banchory to Fettercairn road and and the B976 Crathie to Gairnshiel road were closed because of heavy snow.
The A821 Aberfoyle to Callander road was also closed at the Duke’s Pass for a time, as was the A73 Cumbernauld to Abington road at Hyndford Bridge.
A spokesman for Grampian Police warned: “There are hazardous driving conditions in various parts of Grampian. Many routes are affected by lying snow and slush.”
The deteriorating conditions during the day forced a number of primary schools in rural areas to close early. By lunchtime a total of 25 schools were closed in Aberdeenshire, 20 were closed in Angus, and 26 schools were closed in Perth and Kinross.
One school was closed in South Lanarkshire, four partially closed in the Scottish Borders, two schools closed early in Stirling, and pupils at eight school in Dumfries and Galloway also enjoyed an early end to the school day. Perth College also closed at mid day because of the worsening weather conditions.
A spokesman for Moray Council warned that further snowfalls were expected overnight in the Tomintoul, Dufftown and Cabrach areas with accumulations of up to 20 cm (eight inches) expected.
He said: “Strong winds will also lead to drifting and blizzard-like conditions, particularly over the high level roads in the south of Moray. The public should be prepared for likely travel disruption throughout Moray and road closures on routes like the A939 north and south of Tomintoul and the A941 south of Dufftown can be expected.”
A Met Office spokesman, however, said that most of Scotland was set for at least a brief respite from the Arctic conditions over the weekend with dry and relatively mild conditions expected before a band of heavy rain crosses the country.
He said: “Generally speaking for much of Saturday it will quite nice in Scotland. There should be dry weather and some sunshine around between two weather systems. There will be a little bit of snow overnight but it will clear through before dawn and for most of Scotland it is going to be quite a fine day until later in the afternoon when we get the next system pushing its way through.
“The next system will be a band of heavy rain, save for snow on the very tops of the hills and mountains. That will clear through on Sunday morning and will be replaced by blustery showers.”
He added: “The showers will push across the North west of Scotland and through to the hills and mountains and some of the showers will be of snow as they follow behind. So we are not completely out of the woods for snow fall for Scotland just yet. But the majority of that second band will be rain. with up to 40 mm over Western hills.”
Daytime temperatures are forecast to be slightly above the seasonal norm of between 5C and 7C over the weekend.
The lingering snow in the Cairngorms, however, will mean that the annual Aviemore Sled Dog Rally, which begins today at Glen More, will take place on snow covered tracks for only the second time in the event’s 30 year history.
Around 1000 dogs and their handlers are expected to take part in the two day event organised by the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain.