MUCH of the country faces a freezing weekend, with heavy snow and blizzards set to cause travel chaos.
Severe weather yesterday resulted in roads being shut, trains cancelled or delayed and air travel disrupted.
Flights were cancelled at a number of airports, including Glasgow, Newcastle, Southampton, Bristol and Jersey. At least 70 were cancelled at Heathrow, where one of the two runways had to be closed for de-icing and snow clearance.
Blizzard conditions hit the A93 in Deeside, while the B974 from Fettercairn to Banchory was closed. White-out conditions struck the A94 between Glamis and Forfar, and back roads around Alyth and Kirriemuir in Angus were also affected. A section of the A821 in Stirling was closed due to snow.
Six hillwalkers were airlifted from the Cairngorms after one of their group got lost in severe weather conditions. A police spokesman said: “A 26-year-old female member of the party was taken to Raigmore Hospital for medical checks. She has minor injuries and is being kept for observation overnight.
“Mountain rescue teams met up with the group before they were airlifted.”
Scotland is expected to be hit by heavy snow over the weekend. Widespread ice will be a major feature, as temperatures struggle to rise above freezing. The Met Office has warned of significant travel disruption.
Aberdeenshire, Angus and Perthshire are said to be in most danger of being blasted with heavy snow today.
Amber “be prepared” warnings have been issued by the Met Office for the Grampian, Tayside, Fife and Central regions and will remain in force until at least 9am today.
These areas will get “frequent and occasionally heavy snow showers”, with snowfall of up to 2-4 inches and as much as 6in on higher ground. The Met Office said the wind might make matters worse, with the “drifting of lying snow in the strong-to-gale-force south-easterly winds”.
Caution is advised in Strathclyde, the south-west of Scotland and the Lothians, where yellow “be aware” alerts were in effect last night.
Forecaster Laura Caldwell said: “Light snow showers have been coming in off the North Sea to fall in the east where there has been a few centimetres.
“It seems to be picking up a bit more and spreading across the Highlands.”
She added: “There will be snow drifting across mountainous areas, with strong winds which could gust up to 30mph.
“The snow showers will continue throughout the weekend in central and eastern areas, where temperatures will remain low and only reach as high as 4C.”
Transport minister Keith Brown said that while preparations had been made to alleviate disruption, communities should work together and help each other out. He went on: “The Scottish Government’s resilience operation is already liaising closely with the Met Office, councils, police, transport authorities and the range of other agencies and organisations who are working together to try and minimise the disruption for individuals, families and communities.
“As we’ve seen so well in recent years, there’s also a lot that people can do to help themselves and their communities when bad weather closes in, like offering vulnerable neighbours a helping hand, clearing snow from pathways and ensuring that they follow travel and transport advice.
“This is particularly important in our more rural areas.”
South of the Border, some train companies operated special timetables yesterday, even before the snow arrived, prompting passengers to complain of overcrowding.
Channel Tunnel firm Eurostar axed four services between London and Brussels, and there were amended services on a number of domestic routes.
In Wales, there was a red alert – which is the Met Office’s highest warning level – and the M4 was closed between junction 36 at Bridgend and junction 36 at Pyle because of snow.
WEEKEND WEATHER AT A GLANCE
TODAY Remaining very cold with a raw easterly wind. Snow expected in north-east Scotland. Cloudy for most areas, with further intermittent snow flurries, mainly affecting the east. Heavy snow showers in northern Scotland becoming less frequent by the afternoon.
TOMORROW Snow expected to reach parts of Stirlingshire and Glasgow. Rain, sleet and snow at times elsewhere.
MONDAY Light rain and sleet expected over much of Scotland. High winds in the early hours moving southwards during the day.