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Gale-force gusts up to 90mph forecast for Xmas Eve in Scotland

Gale-force winds with gusts of up to 90mph could hit parts of Scotland tomorrow, affecting Christmas travel plans.

Rain showers are also predicted to sweep across the country with snow falling on higher ground, creating blizzard conditions on the mountains.

Dumfries and Galloway and the west coast are set to experience the first of the strongest winds before they pass into the north west Highlands and the Northern Isles.

The Met Office has issued amber "be prepared" warnings for 80-90mph winds in Argyll and Bute, the Highlands and the islands, with lesser yellow "be aware" warnings for the rest of the country with widespread winds of around 60mph expected.

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) has eight flood warnings in place for the Tayside area with other alerts for the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.

With many people expected to be travelling home for Christmas or shopping for last-minute presents, transport bosses say they are monitoring the situation and are preparing for the conditions.

The Scottish Government's resilience operation will keep in touch with the Met Office, Sepa and utilities companies throughout the day.

Traffic Scotland manager Stein Connelly said: "This is obviously the time of year when many people are travelling home for the festive season and we would urge them to take the weather conditions into consideration when they are planning their journeys.

"The Met Office is telling us that the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the north-west Highlands and the Northern Isles will be particularly badly affected by the winds and we would remind people that bridges in these areas may have to close at some points during the day.

"The rest of the country will experience some strong winds and this could lead to some isolated problems on the roads.

"The message, as always, is to make sure you have as much information as possible before starting your journey, and to consider when you travel."

The A9 has already been closed intermittently over the last week due to snowfall on the main road to the Highlands.

Billy Payne, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, said the weather will die down as Christmas Day begins.

He said: "It's going to be a very windy day with widespread 60mph winds, pushing up to around 70 along the west coast and even 80 or 90mph in the Northern Isles.

"Showers will accompany the winds but should pass during the day, falling as sleet and snow on higher ground.

"For Christmas Day the winds should die down on the mainland but will remain strong on the islands. It looks like only those in the highest parts will see any kind of white Christmas, with little snow expected in lower lying areas.

"For both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day the temperature will be between 4 and 7C."

Ferry operator CalMac is urging anyone intending to travel by ferry to be as flexible as they can when planning their journeys.

A spokesman said: "We have been advised that there will be prolonged periods of severe weather hitting Scotland over the next couple of weeks, including the Christmas and new year holiday period. As a result our services may experience cancellations and disruptions.

"Due to the impact of this weather it is likely that our timetables and sailings will change at very short notice as we endeavour to maintain lifeline services."

Power company Scottish Hydro said hundreds of engineers and support staff will be working in depots and offices across the network and will respond to any damages to the electricity network.

Extra call handlers will also be working to give customers advice and to talk to anyone who may lose their electricity supply, Hydro said.

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