8 Dec 2011

Hurricane-force winds batter northern Britain

Wind pounds Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of England, forcing drivers to stay off the roads. Channel 4 News Weather Presenter Liam Dutton says there was “perfect recipe for an explosive storm”.

Storms have battered northern areas of the UK, causing widespread disruption to schools and transport.

Scotland and northern England were the worst-affected areas with a top wind speed of 165mph recorded on the summit of the Cairngorms in Aberdeenshire, the Met Office said.

Thousands of schools across all but six of Scotland’s 32 local authorities were shut by lunchtime to allow pupils to get home safely.
Glasgow was one of the worst-hit areas, with 71mph winds recorded earlier.

In England, Cumbria saw heavy rain, and police said they received several calls from motorists stuck in floodwater.

Three people were rescued from a car in North Yorkshire after they became trapped by rising water. They were taken to hospital for a check-up after being rescued in the Richmond area. Elsewhere, a bridge collapsed.

Channel 4 News Weather Presenter Liam Dutton said: “Today’s strongest gust of wind so far has been 165mph at Cairngorm Summit, which is certainly extremely windy.

“However, it’s important to point out that this weather station is at the top of a mountain. Lower down, closer to sea level, Tiree has peaked at a more representative gust of 90mph.”

Latest updates: Channel 4 News weather service

The Scottish government said that around 70 per cent of Scotland’s 2,800 schools did not opened or closed early.

The authorities advised all schools in the west of Scotland to close. All followed that advice apart from Renfrewshire and North Ayshire where schools opened only for the morning.

Weather disruption

• North Sea ferry The Pride of Hull, run by P&O, was unable to dock for several hours due to the poor weather conditions after completing its journey from Rotterdam to Hull.

• People in central Scotland, Argyll, the Western Isles, Dumfries and the Clyde coast have suffered power cuts. Electricity company Scottish Hydro said the severe weather had affected its power supply. The company drafted in 500 staff from sister company Southern Electric to restore power to customers.

Transport Scotland said that main road bridges could stay closed until the storm passes.

• More than 20 local authorities in Scotland closed schools early or did not open at all. But some local authorities in the north of Scotland allowed schools to open as usual, including Aberdeen, Highland and Shetland.

• The University of Glasgow and Caledonian University is closed, as are all public museums, galleries, sports centres and libraries.

• There are no CrossCountry services running between Aberdeen and Edinburgh, with reduced services on East Coast and Scotrail. There is also disruption on First TransPennine Express, Northern Rail and Virgin Trains.

• There were cancellations of some routes on Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries, while other sevices were disrupted.

• All airports remain open but Scottish airports have reported some delays and cancellations.

• In Northern Ireland, the Foyle Bridge was closed but it was reopened as conditions improved.

• Ferry services on the Irish Sea were affected with two cancellations on Stena’s Belfast to Cairnryan services. P&O had no reported cancellations on its Irish Sea routes but advised passengers to check in normally.

• As the poor conditions moved eastwards into England the cross-Pennine A66 was closed both ways to high sided vehicles due to strong winds.

• A school bus in North Ayrshire was blown over by high winds on the A737 near Dalry at around 10am. There were no passengers on board at the time and the driver was uninjured.

• First Glasgow and First Scotland East withdrew all double-decker vehicles from service due to the adverse weather conditions and following advice from the Scottish Government.

• The Association of Chief Police Officers (Scotland) asked motorists to check travel updates on television, radio and the internet before embarking on any journey.

Expecting to fly: Channel 4 News reporter Jane Deith blogs from Gatwick airport
It is a truth universally acknowledged that TV reporters sent to cover weather stories never expect the weather to get in THEIR way. And I have covered almost every natural phenomenon: “What do you mean the road’s flooded?”; “The car can’t be stuck in the snow!”; “I know the forest fire is raging out of control, but we need the pictures!”

But I should have listened to my colleague, Midlands producer Kamali Melbourne, this morning when he asked “Are you sure it’s wise to try to fly to Scotland when the story is that it’s windy?”

My flight from Gatwick to Glasgow was delayed by half an hour. It proved critical – half an hour earlier and we might have missed the almighty gale which blew into Glasgow after lunch. As it was, we came in to land at 13:40. The captain came on to say it would be a bit bumpy but he didn’t sound concerned.

We watched Glasgow’s tower blocks come into view through the windows and as we got lower and lower the ride became less rollercoaster, more tumble-drier. We rode the gusts and our guts did too. The runway rushed up to meet us, and I am sure the pilot got one wheel on the ground. “Geronimono!” we thought.

Except the plane suddenly tipped to one side and we were pointing back up into the sky. The pilot stepped on the gas – and we raced for the clouds. The landing wheels were packed away and the pilot came back on the tannoy. “Apologies for the discontinued landing ladies and gentlemen. The winds on the ground are stronger than we thought I and I didn’t think it was safe to land. We will go back round and come in to land again in ten minutes.”

So we all read a bit more of our papers and waited. The second approach was just as queasy. Again it felt like we were feet from touch down when again whoosh – we were up up and away.

This time the message from the pilot was that he “didn’t want to put anyone through that again”. But looking around for an alternative airport in Scotland or the North of England, there wasn’t one. They were all too windy. It wasn’t safe. We were going back to Gatwick.

Cue groans, and a repeat visit from the drinks trolley. A few more gin and tonics were served this time I’m sure.

So we landed at Gatwick at 15:00 – after three bumpy hours in the air.

So my contribution to tonight’s programme will be nil. But tomorrow’s editor wants to cover the weather story from Scotland.

So I’ve just checked in at Gatwick again. Cross your fingers for the 18:45 to Glasgow.

Follow @janedeithC4 on Twitter.