‘Weather bomb’ expected to hit the UK tonight
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For the west coast of Scotland, the Highlands and Islands and Northern Ireland, the Met Office has upgraded its warning to amber “be prepared” status.
Many ferry services in Scotland operated by Caledonian MacBrayne have already been disrupted or hit by cancellations as a result of the weather.
Further disruption is likely tomorrow as winds are expected to whip up unusually high waves, with sea swells of up to 12m in parts.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has 19 flood alerts and warnings in place, particularly for coastal areas.
Several train services will also be cancelled tomorrow as a safety precaution, Network Rail and train operator ScotRail announced.
The affected services are Inverness-Kyle/Thurso/Wick, Ayr-Stranraer, Kilwinning-Ardrossan/Largs and Dumbarton Central-Helensburgh Central.
The Glasgow Queen St-Oban/Fort William/Mallaig will also be hit, a route which includes the Caledonian Sleeper service.
Western Isles Council said all schools and nurseries there will be closed as the police have advised the public not to travel unless it absolutely necessary.
All depots, libraries, museums and sports facilities in the Western Isles will also be shut.
Meanwhile, Christmas rides were today reportedly closed in Edinburgh and the city’s Royal Botanic Gardens was closed to the public due to the high winds.
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott missed a Holyrood debate on European Union negotiations over the island’s economically vital fishing industry because he got stranded by the “weather bomb”.
His Liberal Democrat colleague Liam McArthur offered Mr Scott’s apologies to parliament.
Looking ahead, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney has urged people across the country to be on the lookout for travel and safety advice.
“I am confident we are well-placed to cope,” he said.
Councils south of the border insisted they are prepared for the plunge in temperatures, with gritters “out in force” and depots filled with about 1.3 million tonnes of salt.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said nearly all town halls have topped up their salt supplies after last year’s mild winter meant less grit than usual was needed.
More southerly areas of the country are likely to be hit by a second storm due to roll in from the Atlantic Ocean on Friday.
The Met Office warnings for wind from tonight run through tomorrow and into Thursday morning, extending by that stage to cover the whole of the UK.
Forecaster Kirk Waite said some parts will have “a brief respite” for a time on Thursday before the second weather system develops in the south-west of the country.