STORM Gertrude has hit Scotland bringing hurricane force winds of up to 144mph, causing thousands of power cuts, school closures and travel chaos.

Now the Met Office is warning of blizzard conditions to come and issued amber and yellow warnings for wind and snow covering much of Scotland lasting till 11am on Saturday.

They predict gusts of up to 90mph across the far north and west of Scotland and over mountains together with up to six inches of snow in some parts.

Parts of the country are now on course to have experienced the wettest January since records began following days of extreme weather since the turn of the year.

At one point the Met Office issued a rare red weather warning for Orkney and Shetland, while strong winds and heavy rain, battered Scotland and Northern England.

Winds reached 144mph in the Cairngorm mountains and nacreous clouds, which the Met Office said are usually seen in polar regions, were also spotted in the north-east of Scotland.

A gust of 105mph was recorded in Lerwick, Shetland, at 2pm with other winds above 80mph battering Inverbervie in Aberdeenshire.

More than 13,000 homes in Scotland and Northern Ireland lost power, while Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles councils have confirmed that all the schools in their areas were closed to pupils.

On Friday night the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) had 15 flood alerts and 37 flood warnings in force.

The Met Office warned more spells of severe weather are to hit the country over the next few days and warned people to be prepared for "transport disruption, difficult driving conditions and disruption to power supplies".

The weather forecaster said: "A band of rain will move in from the northwest on Friday evening and quickly turn to snow before it clears. Frequent snow showers are then expected overnight and well into Saturday, heavy at times, with some more prolonged spells of snow likely. 5 to 10 cm snowfall is likely to accumulate quite widely, with over 15 cm in places above 300 metres. Ice is also likely to form on untreated surfaces.

"In addition, gusts of 50-60 mph are likely at times, occasionally 70 mph across the far north and west of the amber area and over mountains. This will lead to blizzard conditions at times and drifting of snow. Power supplies may be disrupted by ice accretion and also by lightning strikes, with hail also likely."

On Friday huge waves measuring 30 feet were ecorded in the Outer Hebrides.

Train and ferry services were drastically cut, some routes were withdrawn and the Forth, Tay and Kessock bridges closed.

The Pride of Hull - one of the world's largest ferries - was unable to berth on Friday morning due to the extreme weather conditions and docked at a later time of 3pm today.

Other properties were damaged with flats evacuated in Clydebank when scaffolding was blown through a roof.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said the people in the car managed to get themselves clear but the lorry driver had to be freed by firefighters. The occupants of both vehicles suffered a variety of injuries but none are believed to be life-threatening.

Prime Minister David Cameron was caught up in the disruption on his way to Belgium for EU talks.

The Prime Minister said: "My first challenge is to get to Brussels as with hurricane Gertrude I've already had a flight problem so I'm racing across Scotland at the moment to get to Edinburgh Airport but I hope I will make it."

A man in Edinburgh was treated in hospital after he was struck by flying debris in the Pinkhill area of the Scottish capital. He suffered head injuries but was said to be in a stable condition in Edinburgh Royal infirmary.

A lorry overturned on the M9 at Craigforth, just outside Stirling, and the emergency services were called out to lorries blown over on the A96 near Huntly, the M9 near Dunblane and the A90 between Glamis and Forfar.

In Edinburgh, a tree fell on to the roof of a bus on Corstorphine Road, although no injuries were reported.

In Aberdeen drivers had to avoid a trampoline blown on to the Newtonhill flyover near the A90 at 6am.

The Met Office say that almost double average amount of rain has fallen some areas in the east of the country, with Kincardineshire the wettest place north of the border.

Towns and villages in the historic district were deluged with almost a foot of rain in January, while the east as a whole saw eight inches on average, pushing close to the record January rainfall of nine inches in 2008.

However, despite the arrivals of two storms during the month, the amount of rainfall across the country has not broken into the top ten wettest starts to a year with an average of seven inches recorded by forecasters.

The wettest January on record is 1993, when the average amount of rainfall topped 11 inches.