Gales and blizzards cause havoc in Scotland and north

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The Independent Online

Thousands of homes across Britain were left without power yesterday as gale-force winds and blizzards swept across the country, causing chaos and devastation.

Thousands of homes across Britain were left without power yesterday as gale-force winds and blizzards swept across the country, causing chaos and devastation.

Forecasters predicted more snow this weekend as the arctic conditions head south into the north-east of England, particularly in eastern coastal regions, with the possibility of snow showers reaching London and the south.

Gusts of up to 85mph in the Highlands and north-east Scotland, combined with drifting snow, damaged buildings, closed roads and severely disrupted air and sea travel.

In the Cairngorms, soft snow saved the lives of a man and a woman who fell 700ft off the 3,857ft Coire an t-Sneachda mountain and landed in a deep drift. The man, who is in his 40s, suffered a serious leg injury, while the woman, in her 30s, had cuts and bruises.

Trees and power cables were brought down across the country, with rural communities in Ayrshire, Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, and Argyll regions worst affected.

A spokesman for ScottishPower said: "The loss of power was spread over a number of areas rather than one individual town. We hope to have power restored to most, if not all, of our customers by Saturday morning." It was a similar story in Northern Ireland, where more than 2,000 homes were left without power.

All Stena Sealink ferry crossings between Belfast and Stranraer were cancelled, while ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne suspended several sailings. On the roads, the Forth road bridge and the Skye bridge were closed to high-sided vehicles. At Kildrummy, near Aberdeen, a gritter lorry was driven off the road by high winds and overturned. Two rescue vehicles sent to help the stranded crew had to be dug out of the snow.

Further south, snow was less of a problem but uprooted trees caused the closure of several roads in the Dumfries and Galloway and the Lothian and Borders areas.

In northern England, winds of more than 70mph caused an articulated lorry to overturn and block the northbound carriageway of the A1(M) near Durham. The A66 main cross-Pennines route was also closed to high-sided vehicles, as was the Newton Cap viaduct at Bishop Auckland.

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