MORE than 11,000 homes were left without electricity on Tuesday, after heavy snow and gale-force winds ripped down power lines.
A week after record-breaking temperatures across Scotland put the Mediterranean to shame, winter returned with a vengeance on Tuesday, as up to ten inches of snow fell in parts of Aberdeenshire.
Scores of minor accidents were reported on roads throughout the country as snow-clearing crews battled against the Arctic April conditions.
On Tuesday morning, 11,000 customers of Scottish Hydro, part of Scottish & Southern Energy, were left without electricity, mainly in the North-east, Tayside and the Highlands.
By tea time 6,000 homes were still without power, although the electricity company was confident that the vast majority of customers would be back on line by Wednesday.
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A spokeswoman for Scottish Hydro said: “At 10am this morning we had around 11,000 properties without power across the whole of our supply, mainly from Dundee upwards.
“We have weather monitoring systems in place and we had already arranged for extra staff. They are all out and they are making great progress.
“Most of the disruption has been caused by smaller faults rather than one big fault in each area, and it is mostly due to overhead line damage by the snow and the wind overnight. There are also access problems.”
The areas worst affected were Tayside, where 4,000 consumers were cut off, mainly in Angus; 1,000 across the North-east; and 2,000 across the Highlands.
By the afternoon, a spokesman for the power company said: “We are down to around 6,000 customers still off supply.
“We have 1,700 in the Highlands, about 400 in the North-east and 3,500 in Tayside and Central, mainly in the Angus area.
“We are very confident that everyone will be back on by the end of the night. If any customers are going to be down overnight, it will be down to access issues with potentially smaller faults that we have not yet come across.
“But we are well-resourced and very confident that everyone will be back on.”
Roads in the Grampian Police force area were worst affected by the sudden return to winter conditions. The A941 Dufftown to Rhynie road and the A939 Gairnshiel to Corgarff roads were shut by heavy snow.
The snow gates were also closed between Cockbridge and Tomintoul on the A93. The B976 near Finzean was closed due to fallen trees.
In the Northern Constabulary area, the A939 was closed between Grantown-on-Spey and Dava, and also the B9007 road between Carrbridge and Ferness. There was also a warning of high winds on the Kessock Bridge near Inverness.
There were heavy snowfalls in the Borders, although roads in the area remained passable.
Transport minister Keith Brown said: “Gritters will operate until the snow has passed and they will be supported by additional vehicles.
“Snow is not necessarily unusual in April and our winter maintenance season runs until the middle of May for good reason.”
In Tayside, an estate car left the A90 at the St Ann’s to Keithock junction in Brechin, coming to rest in a ditch. The four occupants were taken to hospital for treatment for minor injuries.
A Vauxhall Astra left the A9 Perth to Stirling road at Tibbermore, coming to rest on its side in a field and two cars and a lorry were involved in a minor collision on the A90 Forfar to Dundee Road.
Fallen trees and branches also caused disruption on the A90 Dundee to Aberdeen road at Stracathro and at Brechin.
Late on Tuesday, Tayside Police urged drivers taking to the roads to “take the utmost care”.
A spokesman said: “Clear skies and strong north-easterly winds will lead to freezing temperatures and potentially difficult driving conditions.
“From Wednesday onwards, temperatures are forecast to recover to what is normally expected at this time of year.
“Tayside Police would urge all motorists to alter their driving according to the conditions around them and drive with the utmost care.”
A spokeswoman for Aberdeenshire Council said that the authority had deployed 34 gritters, seven ploughs, and 21 diggers in order to keep roads in the area open.