SCOTLAND’S first storm of 2015 will be fiercer and come sooner than previously forecast, with winds of 100mph or more blasting the north from tonight , the Met Office has warned.
Forecasters upgraded a severe weather warning from yellow to amber – “be prepared” – for 10pm tonight until noon Friday, with expected maximum wind speeds increased from 90mph.
The warning covers the Highlands and Islands north from Mull, other than Shetland.
The rest of the country remains on yellow alert – “be aware” – with wind gusts expected of up to 70mph.
Northern Scotland is set to get a second battering on Saturday, with winds gusting to 90mph.
The Met Office said its yellow warning for midnight to 6pm may also be upgraded to amber. It said “significant impacts” were likely from tonight’s storm. A spokesman said: “The public should be prepared for disruption to transport as well as power supplies and the possibility of structural damage.
“Very large waves may also lead to dangerous conditions along some coasts.”
Forth Road Bridge officials said the crossing was likely to be closed to all but cars during rush hour tomorrow morning and, possibly, on Saturday morning.
Engineers are monitoring “dirty water” flowing off the hillside at the A83 Rest and Be Thankful pass, a landslide blackspot in Argyll, which road maintenance firm BEAR Scotland said was “causing some concern”.
John Seymour, national manager of the AA’s severe weather team, said: “If you have no choice but to drive, keep your speed down as sudden gusts can catch you out and there is a risk of debris on the roads.”
Network Rail said lines most exposed to the storm were expected to be closed as a precaution. Insurer Direct Line urged people to secure garden furniture and trampolines.
Ferry firms CalMac and NorthLink, and Orkney Islands Council, warned passengers of disruption to sailings.
The storm, forecast to arrive at noon tomorrow, is being caused by very cold air over the US combining with 250mph jet stream winds at high altitude – compared to the usual 150mph at this time of year.
The Met Office said: “A vigorous depression is expected to run rapidly east, passing northern Scotland on Thursday night and Friday morning.
“Winds will begin to increase late on Thursday to give a period of very strong westerly winds across the Western Isles, the north and north-west of the Scottish mainland and Orkney.
“Gusts of 80 to 90mph are likely quite widely, with a risk of gusts of over 100mph in places.”
A further yellow warning – for ice – was issued for northern Scotland until noon today.
Strong winds caused disruption for drivers and ferry and train passengers yesterday.
The Forth Road Bridge was closed to high vehicles, trailers and motorbikes as winds hit 50mph. CalMac cancelled sailings on eight west coast routes, including to Arran, Colonsay, Iona and Stornoway.
Trains were cancelled between Kilwinning and Ardrossan, Ayrshire, after waves hit overhead power lines.
Forecast: Gusts could hit 100mph tonight
TODAY: Breezy. Rain clearing south-eastwards in morning.
Wintry showers in north. Drier and brighter elsewhere. Turning cloudy and very windy overnight, with gusts reaching 100mph in north west, 70mph in south.
Maximum temperature in Edinburgh 5C, Inverness 4C, Lerwick 6C.
TOMORROW: Windy. Severe gales at times in north. Mild, with outbreaks of rain, locally heavy. Max 7C in Edinburgh, 6C Inverness, Lerwick 7C.
SATURDAY: Turning drier and colder with showers, wintry in north. Max 6C Edinburgh, 4C Inverness, 6C Lerwick.
Source: Met Office
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS