Snowy Scotland to thaw, but disruption to drag into next week

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Snowbound Scotland can finally look forward to a slow thaw but significant disruption is expected to drag on into next week.

Remaining severe weather warnings until Monday are at the lowest level - yellow - and temperatures are forecast to steadily rise to 7C in Edinburgh and Glasgow by Thursday.

An engineer clears snow and ice from the tram lines along York Place in Edinburgh as severe weather conditions continue. Picture: Jane Barlow

An engineer clears snow and ice from the tram lines along York Place in Edinburgh as severe weather conditions continue. Picture: Jane Barlow

But transport networks are likely to remain severely hampered by snowdrifts for several days.

Environmental protection officials are watching for potential flood threats as the biggest snowfall to hit the Central Belt since the 1990s melts.

A total of 50cm was recorded at Drumalbin in South Lanarkshire, the Met Office reported.

Some schools are due to remain shut for a fourth day on Monday, including primaries in West Lothian.

Bread is delivered in snowy conditions to Sainsbury's in Larbert, near Falkirk, as hundreds of motorists and rail passengers were left stranded overnight as extreme weather continues to wreak havoc across the UK. Picture: Andrew Milligan

Bread is delivered in snowy conditions to Sainsbury's in Larbert, near Falkirk, as hundreds of motorists and rail passengers were left stranded overnight as extreme weather continues to wreak havoc across the UK. Picture: Andrew Milligan

Police in Forth Valley said the body of a woman had been found during the search for missing walker Alison Fox in the Ochil hills near Menstrie in Clackmannanshire.

The 51-year-old got had lost on Thursday.

An elderly man who became disorientated in the snow was rescued by a coastguard helicopter.

He was walking on the Speyside Way when he rang the emergency services asking for help yesterday afternoon.

HM Coastguard winch operator Mark Lean said: “The elderly gentleman had become lost in deep gorse and scrub land and had quickly become fatigued trying to beat his way through the undergrowth.

“He knew he might get into a very serious situation as darkness fell as temperatures plummeted, so he did the right thing to call the Coastguard.”

On the roads, 20-30 vehicles were freed after they became stuck in snow on the A92 near Inverbervie in Aberdeenshire.

In Easter Ross, police reported drivers trapped around Nigg, Fearn and Tain.

Many minor roads remain impassable in areas such as Dumfries and Galloway, police have warned motorists.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “Local and national services are working together to do all we can to keep our roads clear of snow.

“However, the situation remains very challenging, particularly in rural and eastern areas of Scotland.”

A Scottish Government spokesman added: “The extent of snowdrifts mean services are stretched and conditions on some roads remain difficult for local people, delivery drivers and pedestrians.”

The military helped get medical staff to hospitals, with the service being extended from Edinburgh to Fife and Tayside last night after requests from health boards.

Some 30 vehicles and 60 personnel from Royal Marine Condor in Arbroath, Scots Dragoon Guards in Leuchars and RAF Lossiemouth in Moray were drafted in.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “The armed forces are assisting emergency services in ensuring essential NHS staff are able to get to work, and are standing by to help the police and civil authorities following heavy snowfall.”

Health boards such as NHS Lothian have cancelled all routine non-urgent operations and hospital out-patient appointments.

Lothian’s deputy chief executive Jim Crombie said: “Our staff have been working in some of the most difficult circumstances and they have gone above and beyond at every turn – in some cases even just to get to work, with people staying overnight in hospitals or walking for hours in knee-deep snow.”

Air travellers at Scotland’s two busiest airports suffered a third day of cancellations, which have totalled more than 1,200 at Edinburgh and Glasgow since Wednesday.

Prestwick, which normally handles no more than two passenger flights a day, has accommodated an extra 3,700 travellers on 22 diverted flights including from Dubai.

ScotRail does not expect to run trains across its full network until Monday.

Many lines remain invisible under feet of snow, while potentially damaging icicles have formed in tunnels.

Only about seven routes are due to operate today,including the main Edinburgh-Glasgow line.

A ScotRail spokesman said: “We’ll be proving more routes, and running more services over the weekend, but a lot depends on the drifting snow.

“We’re hopeful for a normal service network-wide to resume for the morning peak on Monday.”

The Met Office forecast a slow rise in temperatures over the coming week.

Chief meteorologist Paul Gundersen said: “There will continue to be a risk of rain, sleet and snow at times.

”The less cold air means there will be a gradual thaw, but this will freeze again overnight so ice is likely be an additional overnight hazard together with low cloud and fog.

“Colder conditions will continue in the north, with snow showers, although less heavy and less frequent than of late.”

A Scottish Environment Protection Agency spokeswoman said: “Flood forecasting staff, based in Perth, have been working with the Met Office, monitoring snow levels, temperature and any future rainfall, to assess whether snow melt will have any impacts on Scotland’s rivers.

“At present, no significant snow melt is expected, but regular updates are provided to our multi-agency partners, including local authorities, to ensure they are prepared and informed.”

Heavy snow also took its toll on travellers in England, with some 3,500 vehicles trapped overnight on the M62 in the north west.

Passengers spent the night in a freezing train stranded in Hampshire.