Island schools closed as Storm Gertrude brings heavy rain and high winds


All schools in the Northern and Western Isles will be shut on Friday and widespread travel disruption is predicted as Storm Gertrude is forecast to bring heavy rain and winds of up to 90mph.

Snow and ice are also forecast in some areas as the extreme weather continues to batter the British Isles.

A succession of storms since December has seen widespread flooding and major disruption to travel, with the latest misery expected to continue through to the weekend.

The Met Office has issued an amber ''be prepared'' warning for high winds in Northern Ireland, Scotland and north west and north east England.

Yellow ''be aware'' warnings for rain, snow and ice are in place across much of the UK.

Forecasters said: ''West to south-westerly gales are expected to develop widely across Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of northern England early on Friday.

''Winds are expected to widely gust 60-70mph, possibly up to 80mph along exposed coasts and over hills.

''Be prepared for the likelihood of difficult driving conditions and disruption to travel, such as cancellation to ferry services and bridge closures."

The Met Office said gusts of up to 90mph across Orkney and Shetland are likely.

Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles councils have confirmed that all the schools in their areas will be closed to pupils on Friday.

Orkney Island Council's head of schools, Peter Diamond, said: "At the moment, the severe winds are predicted to be at full strength in the early morning when pupils would be travelling to school. Given the forecast, we have decided to close all schools on Friday."

Transport in Scotland is also set to face serious disruption.

The Forth Road Bridge is likely to be closed to all traffic except cars on Friday morning and may be shut entirely as winds peak at around 8am.

ScotRail will operate a limited service with routes in the Highlands and west coast particularly affected.

No trains are expected to run until at least the afternoon between Inverness and Kyle, Thurso and Wick; Perth and Inverness; Glasgow and Fort William, Oban and Mallaig; Dumbarton and Helensburgh; Kilmarnock and Stranraer; and Kilwinning and Ardrossan and Largs.

The routes are likely to bear the brunt of 90mph winds with high tides also forecast.

Operators said hundreds of engineers will be deployed across the network to inspect lines, repair damage and reopen routes as quickly as possible.

Phil Verster, ScotRail Alliance managing director, said: ''We will be withdrawing some services until the worst of the storm has passed.

''The safety of our passengers and workforce is our top priority and we cannot run services on these lines until our engineers have thoroughly inspected the network for any damage."

Ferry passengers on Scotland's CalMac services have been told to expect disruption.

Engineers are also on standby around the country to deal with power outages caused by the extreme weather.

Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD) said: ''We have 400 front line and support staff standing by and we have moved engineers to the areas we expect to be hit by the storm. Mobile generators and other resources are also being moved.

''Members of the public should not approach fallen or damaged power lines, which may still be live.''

Around 600 people were evacuated from their homes in the Scottish Borders on Wednesday over renewed flooding fears and firefighters had to rescue a bus driver caught in water on the B6405 route near Hawick.