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Floods chaos as Bertha brings a month's rain in just 24 hours

HUNDREDS of homes had to be evacuated, railway and ferry services were severely disrupted and roads were closed as the remnants of Hurricane Bertha brought winds of up to 50mph and flooding to the north east and the Highlands and Islands.

A HOLE LOT OF TROUBLE: Farmer Brian Mutch finds problems on his farm road at Delnies, near Nairn. Picture: Peter Jolly
A HOLE LOT OF TROUBLE: Farmer Brian Mutch finds problems on his farm road at Delnies, near Nairn. Picture: Peter Jolly

Torrential rain brought by the tail end of the storm caused the wettest day of the year so far, with Fair Isle in Shetland seeing more than five inches of rain in a 24-hour period, almost double the 2.7ins full-month average for August.

Lossiemouth in Moray was deluged with more than four inches of rain. Its monthly average is 2.4ins.

About 200 properties in Elgin were evacuated as the River Lossie continued to rise. Residents were taken to a rest centre set up at Elgin High School. The council also ensured supplies of sand were made available to enable people to fill sandbags as the threat of flooding continued.

The town suffered serious flooding in 2009 and an £86 million flood prevention scheme is being constructed. It was said to be working in places where it had been finished.

Council leader Allan Wright said the evacuation was a precaution. "The fire service told us it is much easier to evacuate homes while people can still walk out rather than have to go for them in boats. The flood prevention scheme will not be finished until next May, but had it been completed then we would not have been evacuating people as we are at this time."

Marc Becker, of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, said: "We are now seeing the larger rivers respond and further flooding is anticipated in Huntly, Elgin and communities along the River Spey, including Kingussie, Newtonmore, Aviemore, Aberlour, Rothes, Garmouth and Kingston.

"There is also the possibility of problems on the Dee, Don, including to camp sites adjacent to these rivers, and, later, Findhorn."

The agency issued 41 flood warnings, indicating flooding is expected, and seven flood alerts, where flooding is possible.

A rest centre was prepared at Forres Community Centre as the level of the River Findhorn reached dangerously high levels. The Keith Show was cancelled due to bad weather.

Parts of Aberdeenshire saw wind gusts of 50mph. A spokesman for Aberdeenshire Council said the River Carron and River Deveron were being closely monitored, with flood protection equipment and flood wardens deployed in Stonehaven and Huntly as a precaution.

The Beach Esplanade in Aberdeen was closed temporarily because of the high winds.

Ferry services were disrupted, but flooding at Kingussie meant trains were unable to run between Perth and Inverness, while buses were replacing trains between Elgin and Huntly, also because of flooding. Some reports said the main Aberdeen to Inverness railway line looked "more like a canal".

Some roads were also severely affected. The A96 Keith to Elgin route was blocked due to flooding.

Among the worst affected roads were the A838 Durness to Tongue on Sutherland's north coast, which was closed at the south end of Loch Eriboll. Also in Sutherland, the B873 Altnaharra to Syre road was shut at Grumbeg Bridge.

In Easter Ross fallen trees closed the B827 Skiach to Evanton route.

The A835 was also shut by a landslip at Leckmelm, near Ullapool, leading to serious delays for those travelling on the Ullapool to Stornoway ferry. It meant a two-hour road detour via Lairg.

South of Inverness, part of the A938 at Duthil, near Carrbridge, suffered subsidence, as did the B9136 near Tomintoul.

An important footbridge for walkers in the Cairngorms was lifted from its foundations and swept downstream. The bridge ran across Derry Burn at the foot of Glen Derry and was an essential link in a commonly-used route through the Lairig Ghru Pass.

The Met Office had issued amber "be prepared" weather warnings but these have been scaled down to yellow "be aware" warnings of rain for the Strathclyde, Central, Tayside and Fife, Grampian and Highlands and Islands areas. Forecaster Charles Powell said: "For August, it's unseasonable in terms of rain."

l Ten sailors required treatment after a regatta in Strangford Loch, Northern Ireland, was hit by a squall. Most of the casualties were suffering from hypothermia after more than 200 people competing in 87 sailing dinghies were hit by the sudden weather change.

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