View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Friday, 18 December 2009

A jaunt around town

Cuddy Point, from the harbour quayside

Lazy Corner

Christmas wishes from primary schools

The Narrows

Hurricane update - 18 December

The Southern Hemisphere season is in full swing and throwing up quite a few surprises. Over the past few days, tropical cyclone Laurence made landfall in Western Australia, north of the town of Derby, and was given up for dead by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Honolulu. The Bureau of Meteorology in Perth, Australia, disagreed, and continued to issue warnings as Laurence, although greatly weakened, continued to track south, and veered west this morning, headed back for the coast. JTWC promptly resumed warnings this afternoon (GMT). Something tells me that this cyclone could have a nasty reincarnation. Current predictions show it at 75 knots, equivalent to a category I hurricane, upon making landfall near the town of Port Hedland after the weekend. Port Hedland is no stranger to tropical cyclones: in 2007, TC George came along and caused a fair bit of damage. One person was killed, whilst sheltering in accommodation that was not cyclone proof. It was provided by the local mining company.

A few days ago, tropical cyclone Mick passed directly over Fiji and took two lives. This system has now disappeared from the weather charts. Over in the Indian Ocean, tropical cyclone 05S no longer meets the criteria for a cyclone, but appears to be brewing up again southwest of Diego Garcia. I don't like the look of the satellite image, which appears to show a system that is building up strength. I'm no meteorologist, but after 3 years of tracking these phenomena, I recognise the signs from the imagery.

Friday 18 December

A very good Friday to you all as we enter the final week in the annual Christmas Countdown, which started - at the end of the last Christmas. The weather has turned suitably Christmassy a week early, and I fully anticipate a miserable, grey, wet and mild Christmas morning this time next week. When I venture into town later today and/or tomorrow, the shops will be heaving and the people overburdened with overexpensive Christmas gifts. Where have the days gone that you could get someone a prezzy for five quid and they'd be overjoyed? Here in Stornoway, and indeed elsewhere in the Hebrides, we can all shop in safety. It has just been revealed that citizens of the Western Isles of Scotland are watched over by the largest number of CCTV cameras per head of population: 8.4 per 1000. Our august capital city Edinburgh has to get by with fewer than 1 per 1000. There are other benefits associated with living in northern Scotland, you know. Up here, people know how to deal with 6 inches of snow. OK, I grant you, there are many more people in southern England than in Highland Scotland, which is home to 220,000. And snow is more of a rarety down there than up here, but still: 6 inches of snow and the entire shebang grinds to a halt. Here in the Western Isles, with its grossly overstated reputation for bad weather, we're having a quiet day with light, variable winds and the odd light shower. Granted, when the weather does get bad (statistically speaking once every 7 days), it can get really nasty. But people are prepared for it, used to it happening, and all the more grateful for the return of the sun. Even if, in December, she only appears for 6½ hours in the day. Another aspect of life in the Hebrides is that news tends to be relatively benign. Spats over the Town Hall refurbishment and the location for a centre about St Kilda assume high levels of importance, not to mention the fact that our local radiostation (Isles FM) may finally get a decent home. At present it is located in a former boatshed on the seafront at Newton Street. When there is a hailstorm (common in winter), the presenter can get drowned out. In summer, when the door is open, you can hear the binlorries going by, planes flying overhead, and people having a natter outside. In the middle of the newsbulletin. Which tends to miss all the local news that really is of importance (with the odd exception), and instead focuses on the deeds of our elected representatives to the Scottish and British parliament. Oh, they actually do something?? Must listen out. Isles FM can be heard on-line, using the link above. Well, must go for lunch.

More later.