GALE-force winds, storms and heavy snow are expected to cause disruption as they batter parts of Scotland this weekend.
One of the warmest Novembers on record is set to draw to a close with blizzard conditions.
Severe weather warnings have been issued for southern Scotland, parts of the north-west and the far north.
People have been told to brace themselves today for gusts of up to 70mph and heavy rain.
The conditions are expected to cause some surface flooding and travel disruption. There are also due to be fresh falls of snow on higher ground.
A spokesman for the Met Office said: “The risk of some very strong winds starts as of mid-morning and will go through until Sunday, when it will start to tail off.
“These are storm-force gusts. There’s the potential for damage and disruption from these sort of winds, but they are quite normal for this time of year.
“It’s caused by an autumnal storm which is passing to the north of Scotland, but as it goes past it’s bringing these winds and rain with it. We are also expecting heavy showers.”
Already there have been large falls of snow on high ground and more is expected over the coming week, although lower areas are unlikely to turn white yet, according to the Met Office, in marked contrast to last year.
And parts of the country, particularly the Western Isles, have already been battered by storms.
The independent weather station at Eoropie on Lewis recorded hurricane winds of 85mph on Thursday night. The gusts were so strong some of the recording equipment blew away.
Station owner John Gray said: “I’ve lived here for 13 years and I have never seen much lightning. There was lightning here last night. It was so bright and strong.”
In Orkney, Burray and Hope primary schools were closed yesterday during high winds.
More than a dozen ferry services run by Caledonian MacBrayne have either been cancelled or disrupted. Western Isles Council warned there was a continued risk of flooding from spray and large breakers during high tide and called on the public to be vigilant.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has issued flood alerts for Orkney, Shetland, Skye and Lochaber, the Western Isles and Wester Ross.
Also at risk are Argyll and Bute, Caithness and Sutherland and Dumfries and Galloway.
Chris Burton, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: “Storm-force winds will be caused by a strong depression to the north of Scotland. These winds are more commonly found further out at sea.”
Scotland’s biggest ski centre, Cairngorm, has already had a significant snowfall, with a couple of inches as far down the hill as the Coire Cas car park. Snowploughs were called out for the first time this season to clear the access road. Spokesman Colin Kirkwood said: “This will whet the appetite for the slopes. We are all ready to open when we get enough snow, and that could come later next week.”
Meanwhile, provisional figures suggest the UK could have experienced its second mildest November on record, and its second or third mildest autumn.
The average temperature in Scotland for 1-23 November was 8C, which is 3.3C higher than the long-term average, according to the Met Office.
In contrast, last year the average temperature in Scotland for November was 2.8C – which is significantly lower than normal.
“We are certainly seeing some quite stark differences from one year to the next,” a Met Office spokesman said.
The warm conditions this year have led to reports of flowers blooming early and even ducklings being born.