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Two killed in storm as winds cause chaos across country

TENS of thousands of homes have been without power and residents have been warned to stay away from coastal paths in some areas today as hurricane-force gusts of up to 142mph battered the north of Britain.

SHUTDOWN: Winds of up to 142mph battered the country yesterday and left two dead, as the transport system came creaking to a halt.
SHUTDOWN: Winds of up to 142mph battered the country yesterday and left two dead, as the transport system came creaking to a halt.

Two men died, more than 10,000 homes were evacuated and all train services in Scotland were halted for more than four-and-a-half hours as the storm reached its peak during morning rush hour.

The first victim of the high winds was a lorry driver who died when his HGV was blown on top of a number of cars in West Lothian. Four people were also injured when the lorry overturned on the A801 one mile north of Boghead Roundabout, Bathgate, at around 8.10am yesterday.

A man riding a mobility scooter was also killed in Retford, Nottinghamshire, when he was struck by a falling tree in a park.

Roads were closed and others were blocked by fallen trees and debris. The A83 Rest and Be Thankful was shut after a lorry overturned but was reopened in the afternoon.

A landslide was reported on the A82 between Tarbet and Ardlui and emergency services were working to reopen the route.

Many bridges were closed during the storm's peak including the Forth Road Bridge, Tay Bridge, M90 Friarton Bridge, A876 Clackmannanshire Bridge, A9 Dornoch Bridge, Skye Bridge, Erskine Bridge and Kessock Bridge.

The River Dee in Aberdeen and the River Ness in Inverness burst its banks and by 3pm the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) had issued 19 flood warnings.

Energy companies reported blackouts in the Highlands, Perthshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Lanarkshire and Aberdeenshire. At 7pm last night, seven hours after the worst of the storm had passed, nearly 50,000 of the 130,000 homes which had suffered power cuts were without electricity.

As flood warnings were put in place, Scottish Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse said there were fears that some areas on the east coast were at particular risk today, with a tide of more than 14ft 9in - the highest since 1959 - possible in the Firth of Forth. Residents in Eyemouth and the Berwickshire coast, Musselburgh and the East Neuk of Fife have been warned to stay away from coastal paths.

The Met Office also issued yellow warnings covering most of Scotland for today as up to two inches of snow is expected, with the north of the country to be worst hit.

First Minister Alex Salmond told the Scottish Parliament that 195 schools had been closed because of the weather conditions and praised the "outstanding work of the emergency services". A police stage four red alert advising motorists in most of Scotland to avoid driving was in place for more than three hours from 9am.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said the armed forces were on standby to help.

Network Rail decided at 8.45am yesterday that Scotland would become a no-go zone for trains. The first train to run once rail administrators decided it was safe to do so was the 1.22pm from Edinburgh to North Berwick. A skeleton train service then began throughout the country.

Network Rail posted photographs online, which were shared by ScotRail, showing trees on the line, train windows smashed and railway signs fallen over.

ScotRail managing director Steve Montgomery said: "It's the right decision when you see the type of weather we've experienced. We've had various problems, with trampolines, we've had haystacks on the line, we've had numerous trees and telegraph poles, right across the whole of the network in Scotland."

Updates were posted on ScotRail's Twitter feed throughout the day.

Passengers had to be evacuated from West Street subway station in the southside of Glasgow after a suspicious cylinder was found.

Police ordered that the station be evacuated as a precaution and closed. The cylinder was identified as a compressed gas canister.

Meanwhile, Glasgow Central Station became a no-go zone to would-be passengers for nearly six hours after it was evacuated after 8am when debris hurled by high winds smashed glass on the roof.

Network Rail said teams would be out overnight to clear the tracks and open as much of the network as possible for this morning. ScotRail said it hoped to run a near normal service today.

Train operator East Coast last night said it expected to operate its normal publicised timetable with the exception of three services which will start at Edinburgh and Doncaster instead of Inverness, Glasgow and Hull.

Some flights from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports were cancelled.

Hundreds of passengers on at least two aircraft that managed to land at Glasgow Airport after transatlantic flights had to remain on board for up to three hours yesterday as the wind made it unsafe to disembark.

The highest wind of 142mph was recorded at Aonach Mor in the Highlands.

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