View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Friday, 17 December 2010

Evening notes

Although the weather has improved, Friday ended early for many people in these islands. Most schools were shut all day, and shops in Stornoway town centre closed early, between 2 and 3pm. Buses to rural areas in the island had their last service between 6 and 8pm; on a Friday, the last service usually leaves at around 11pm, just after the pubs close. Not today. One driver had a bad day, as a lamppost outside the supermarket had been knocked over. There is a layer of snow, 10 cm / 4 inches thick, on the ground, and drifts rising to 40 cm / 16 inches. With the light winds having fallen light, the main problem will be frost. A ship with a supply of road salt is sheltering in the Sound of Mull and will head this way over the weekend. Although there is 1,000 tons of roadsalt left in Lewis and Harris, the supply in the Southern Isles is only 200 tons.

Outside, the mercury has already dipped to -5C.

Friday 17 December

A very wintry scene presented itself, even before daybreak. About 4 inches (10 cm) of snow on the ground, which had accumulated into drifts of more than a foot deep (up to 40 cm). This has caused extensive disruption in the whole of the north of Scotland. The A9 is closed from Brora to Thurso, that's 53 miles of road, including the A99 spur to Wick. Looking at the traffic cameras, the road is almost completely covered in snow. Most schools are shut in the Western Isles, and the situation on the mainland is similarly bad. Here in town, the weekly bin collection has been cancelled for the first time that I've been here - that tends to go ahead, even in stormy weather. There is also no ferry service to the mainland from Stornoway, due to a heavy northerly swell. The alternative route, between Harris and Skye, is running as scheduled, as it's sheltered from the north.

More later.