TRAVELLERS are being warned to brace themselves for gales and snowy weather across much of Scotland today as forecasters predicted this could be the coldest February in almost 30 years.
A Met Office 24-hour severe weather warning for widespread sleet and snow in the north and west of the country began at midnight last night with up to 20cm of snow expected to fall on the hills, along with winds of more than 80 mph in some areas, bringing 15-metre waves off the north coast.
The Central Belt and Borders are predicted to see gusts of up to 60mph this afternoon and heavy snow this evening and tonight.
“The whole of Scotland will be affected by this winter storm,” said Andrew Sibley of the Met Office.
Huge waves, creating what forecasters term “phenomenal seas”, were disrupting ferry sailings with some services, including Oban to Lochboisdale in South Uist, cancelled yesterday and more cancellations expected today.
Mr Sibley said there is a “very wintry period ahead”, adding that after a brief rise in temperatures tomorrow, it will turn colder again in the second half of the week.
Forecasters for online site The Weather Outlook said Britain was facing its coldest February since the mid-1980s.
February temperatures usually average 3.5C across the UK, but the month has often been mild in recent years.
An average monthly UK temperature lower than February 1991’s 1.4C would make this the coldest February since 1986 when thermometers plunged to -1.2C and snow cover was reported in Scotland through the entire month.
Brian Gaze, a forecaster with the Weather Outlook, said: “It’s possible February will be the coldest since 1986.
“Arctic air will push south in the next week and the pattern looks like it will be amplified from mid-February.
“Forecast models show an increasingly cold picture, so there’s plenty of time for [more] snow this winter.”
Met Office forecasters said it was “too early” to say whether the month would beat the icy temperatures of 1986.
However, the Met Office
outlook said: “Conditions tend to remain a little colder than average for much of the 6-15 February period, with temperatures close to or a little below average in mid-month, before signs of a slightly colder spell through much of the period to 2 March.”
The wintry weather was already causing problems for travellers yesterday, particularly those crossing the sea.
A CalMac spokesman said: “A number of Monday’s sailings have been cancelled with many more facing the prospect of disruption due to high winds across our network.
“Ferry travellers are advised to check for the latest service information at www.calmac.co.uk or via the smartphone apps or SMS text service.
“We are grateful for their patience and understanding and apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
However, a spokesman for the AA said drivers and businesses had learned to deal with snowy conditions following several heavy snowfalls earlier this
The spokesman added: “Drivers have got into their winter groove and businesses have worked out ways of dealing with disruption caused by snow.”
In February 1986 there was plenty of snow about
THE year 1986 was designated the International Year of Peace by the United Nations. It was the year a disaster at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union spread nuclear waste across the northern hemisphere and Argentina defeated West Germany 3-2 to win the World Cup in Mexico City.
When it came to the weather, however, it was a very average year: apart from February.
The second month of 1986 would see a continuous period of icy temperatures that has not been repeated since.
The winter of 1985-86 saw several periods of snowfall in Scotland during December and early January, which was not unusual.
But in the last week of January 1986 temperatures fell dramatically. Throughout the whole of February until the first week of March there was six weeks of continuous snow cover in Scotland.
Temperatures during the day struggled to reach above freezing throughout the month and nightfall brought bitter frosts.
The average temperature for the month was recorded at -1.2C.
Snow showers across most of Scotland today, with daytime temperatures averaging about 3C, but feeling a lot colder because of windchill. The temperature will fall below freezing in many areas over night.
Tomorrow will be milder, but become markedly colder again on Wednesday with wintry showers persisting until Friday.