A MAN died yesterday as Storm Desmond swept across Britain, bringing gale-force winds, heavy rain and widespread flooding.
Last night the Met Office issued red warnings – its highest for severe weather – for parts of Scotland and north-west England, with transport networks facing major disruption and a number of road closures.
Earlier a 90-year-old man died near Finchley Central station, north London, after being blown into the side of a moving bus by a gust of wind, a Scotland Yard spokesman said. Last night residents in the Scottish Borders were warned not to travel and 17 families were evacuated from their homes in the Blair Atholl area of Perthshire in the early hours of yesterday morning after the Garry Burn burst its banks.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney chaired a meeting of the Scottish Government’s resilience committee, where ministers were updated on action being taken to tackle the situation and minimise the risk of further disruption.
Swinney said: “It is clear that people across Scotland are experiencing some challenging situations and we will do all we can to help them at this stressful time. Local authorities, Police Scotland, Sepa [Scottish Environment Protection Agency] and resilience teams are all involved in the efforts to mitigate the impacts of flooding and weather issues across the country.”
Marc Becker, Sepa’s duty hydrology manager, said: “The risk to communities in Hawick and Newcastleton are such that Sepa, in discussion with emergency responders, have issued severe flood warnings for both towns. Impacts will include widespread property flooding, evacuations, damage to infrastructure and severe transport disruption.”
Police Scotland said requests for sandbags were being prioritised and warned of further possible incidents, advising people to cancel travel plans or make journeys only when necessary.
The Met Office’s chief forecaster warned that the spell of heavy rain and winds up to 70mph would be “prolonged”.
Almost 60 flood warning were issued yesterday by Sepa, including central Scotland, Skye and Lochaber and the Scottish Borders and Dundee and Moray. The host of incidents across Scotland included a FedEx lorry jack-knifing and hitting the central reservation on the M8 at Bathgate, West Lothian, closing lanes in both directions, and a landslide from a hill above Altura, in the Highlands, dumping at least 200 tonnes of debris on the A82 between Spean Bridge and Invergarry in the early hours of yesterday morning.
A 15-mile stretch of the A82 was closed as a result of the landslide and several areas of flooding between Invergloy and Letterfinlay.
Teams from trunk road operator Bear Scotland were out throughout the night into yesterday morning, dealing with numerous issues of flooding, debris on the road and fallen trees across the north-west.
They successfully caught a landslide at the Rest And Be Thankful on the A83 using debris netting and are reviewing safety on the hillside.
There was also flooding on the A85 at Loch Lubhair, south of Crianlarich. The road was passable with care, but the water level of the loch has continued to rise.
The A924 slip road into Pitlochry from the A9 was closed due to the River Tummel bursting its banks. Motorists have been advised to use alternative routes into the town.
Eddie Ross, Bear Scotland’s operating company representative for north-west Scotland, said: “It has been a very busy night for our dedicated teams.
“We will work today in an effort to reopen the A82 and will issue further updates. I would thank motorists for their patience and ask that they keep advised through the Traffic Scotland website and their Twitter feed.”
There were long tailbacks of traffic on the outskirts of Dunblane with flooding affecting the A9/M9 junction. Among those caught up in the traffic was the Dundee United team coach.
Rail operators saw an increased number of people using their services following the closure of the Forth Road Bridge. Services further north were affected by flooding, resulting in replacement buses running between Perth and Inverness because of flooding at Pitlochry.
Scottish Environment Minister Aileen McLeod said the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland were closely monitoring the situation, supporting the efforts of local authorities and the emergency services.
Simon Williams, RAC spokesman, said anyone driving in Scotland today may be faced with “extremely challenging conditions”.