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Scotland is battered by hurricane-force gales

SCOTLAND battened down the hatches and people kept off the streets yesterday to avoid one of the worst storms to ever hit the UK, with winds of up to 165mph.

storms: Fiona and Craig Wilson brave the waves at Ardrossan South Beach, main picture, and, clockwise from top left, a tree crashed into a car in Nithsdale Place, Glasgow, the Erskine Bridge closed, people deal with storms on Largs seafront, the River Endrick burst its banks, a school bus fell over between Dalry and Kilwinning, a driver has a lucky escape in Ardrossan, a lorry topples on the M9 and a tree fell onto a house in Gifford, East Lothian.
storms: Fiona and Craig Wilson brave the waves at Ardrossan South Beach, main picture, and, clockwise from top left, a tree crashed into a car in Nithsdale Place, Glasgow, the Erskine Bridge closed, people deal with storms on Largs seafront, the River Endrick burst its banks, a school bus fell over between Dalry and Kilwinning, a driver has a lucky escape in Ardrossan, a lorry topples on the M9 and a tree fell onto a house in Gifford, East Lothian.

The hurricane-force gales left tens of thousands of households without power, shut schools and disrupted air travel. Hundreds of roads were closed, mainly due to fallen trees and flooding.

Around 70% of Scotland's 2800 schools either did not open or were closed by the afternoon.

Scottish Government officials were in touch with directors of education to keep them informed about the impending severe weather. More than 20 local authorities closed schools for at least part of the day. Some in the north of Scotland allowed schools to open as usual, including Aberdeen, Highland and Shetland.

Tens of thousands of people in central Scotland, Argyll, the Western Isles, Dumfries and the Clyde coast were left without electricity.

Localised flooding caused major disruption on Scotland's roads and Strathclyde Police had to deal with hundreds of weather-related incidents.

Stena Line and P&O Irish Sea ferry services out of Cairnryan, in Dumfries and Galloway, were subject to cancellation or long delays. NorthLink cancelled all its overnight sailings between Shetland and Aberdeen. Later in the day it emerged that all Caledonian MacBrayne ferry services had been cancelled.

ScotRail and Network Rail brought in speed restrictions of 50mph on trains at 10am.

Nearly 40 rail passengers had a lucky escape when a southbound Oban to Glasgow service struck a tree which had fallen on the track near Crianlarich. A northbound Glasgow to Oban train with 64 passengers on board was stopped by fallen trees near Ardlui.

Train operator East Coast advised customers not to travel north of Edinburgh because of worsening weather conditions. It expected to terminate all of its Anglo-Scots services at Edinburgh.

Homes were evacuated and a road closed after a wind turbine broke during gusts of wind near Coldingham, Berwickshire. An articulated lorry was blown over on the A87 at Glenshiel in the north-west Highlands.

The Forth Road Bridge, Erskine Bridge, Tay Bridge and Connel Bridge in Argyll were all shut. The roof was blown off a hair salon in Falkirk and three parked cars were damaged.

Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary urged local householders who use electricity for cooking to have a hot meal at lunchtime in case of power cuts later in the day.

Police in Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway, Central Scotland and Lothian and Borders advised against all travel until 9pm, when winds were expected to ease.

The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland had warned motorists they could be "putting themselves at considerable risk" if they ignored warnings to avoid travel as the winds moved across the country from west to east.

Pupils were unhurt after a school bus overturned near Dalry, Ayrshire.

Stagecoach, who run Citylink and Megabus services, First Glasgow and First Scotland East said double decker buses had been taken out of service. Some routes were subject to delay and cancellation.

All Glasgow Life facilities were closed to the public and staff sent home. The Mitchell Library remained open until 1.15pm to ensure professional exams could take place. The Christmas festivities in Glasgow's George Square were also a casualty.

All three of Scotland's national orchestras cancelled their concerts. BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra was due to play in Glasgow's City Hall, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra was to give a concert in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra was due to give a concert at its home base, the Queen's Hall in Edinburgh.

The strongest blast of the day was recorded at 165mph at Cairngorm summit. It was just 8mph short of the record – set on the mountain range in 1986.

A tree landed on top of a house in Gifford High Street, East Lothian, at 1.30pm. The house was structurally damaged but there were no injuries.

The Duke of Gloucester's day of engagements in Glasgow were cancelled and would, apart from a Christmas carol concert at Glasgow Cathedral, be moved to the New Year, said a spokesman.

South Ayrshire Council said promenades in Ayr, Girvan, Prestwick and Troon were closed as 30ft waves hit seafronts.

Roads in Kilmarnock were closed over fears a church steeple could come loose.

The ski centre Nevis Range said it would not be able to open to snowsports enthusiasts at the weekend because its lifts were derailed by high winds.

The distribution arm of Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), said the biggest issue affecting the electricity network had been trees and other debris blown on to overhead power lines.

Two customers at the cafe in Elgin's public library suffered minor injuries when a section of the suspended ceiling came down. An investigation was launched, but the possibility it was caused by a freak gust of wind has not been ruled out.

At around 3pm a motorist was taken to hospital after a tree was blown on to his car as he drove along Queen's Drive, Glasgow.

The River Clyde spilled over its banks in Glasgow city centre, partially flooding a low-lying walkway near the Broomielaw.

The river has been swollen by days of constant rain and was also afected by the strong winds. The city's Pavilion Theatre cancelled a performance of Peter Pan amid fears of flying debris. Byres Road was partially closed because of a dangerous building. Strathclyde Police said roof tiles had come loose but no one had been injured.

Meanwhile, dramatic photographs showed sparks flying from a burning windfarm near Ardrossan. The incident forced the closure of B780.

Photographer Stuart McMahon, who captured the scene, said: "The turbine caught fire first and the flames spread to the covering of the blades. These are huge structures and to see one on fire was a spectacular sight."

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