View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Travel chaos

The news today was dominated by the plight of passengers on the Eurostar service, which links London to Paris and Brussels via the Channel Tunnel. Because of a difference in temperature inside the tunnel (25C / 77F) and outside (0C / 32F or lower), condensation on electrical components brought the trains to a standstill. Five trains in total, carrying 2,000 passengers. Locomotives were brought in to pull them out of the tunnel. Delays of 15 hours were reported, with no water, food, heating or anything provided. To say the passengers were unhappy is an understatement. The latest development is that another Eurostar train is at a standstill in north Kent in a similar predicament.

Roads, railways and ferries are equally struggling to cope with demand, and not just in the UK, or indeed Europe. I am getting reports of a Nor'Easter in the States, caused by a depression in the Gulf of Mexico scooting up the East Coast with a lot of tropical moisture - which is expected to turn into 2 feet of snow in Washington DC and area.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I'm looking out at increasingly heavy snow; the precipitation radar showing a rash of showers in my area and 3 inches of snow outside on the ground. Gritters were out in the centre of Stornoway, but rural roads are reported to be tricky. Didn't deter me from having a nice dinner in one of the local restaurants this evening; but I did decide on a taxi rather than my own two feet, particularly as some of my companions were not that happy with the slippery conditions.

Saturday 19 December

Now I could start of by complaining about the bitterly cold northerly wind we're having today. However, one look at the report from the weather station, closest to my father's hometown, dissuades me. That former airforce base went down to -17C overnight (0F), and is currently (lunchtime local time) only at -10C. Here in Stornoway, we're having wintry showers with the mercury only just above freezing with winds of 30 mph, force 7 on the Beaufort scale. That does make for a windchill of -7C, so we're not far apart.

The wintry weather is causing chaos on all sorts of transport. Five Eurostar trains broke down in the Channel Tunnel, after they passed from cold air in France to warmer air in the tunnel. There is major disruption at airports in southern England, and the roads defy description. The frigidity of the weather here in the north presages the arrival of our very own, private batch of snow today and tomorrow. A bout of good ole winter.