Islanders are bracing themselves for the arrival of Storm Abigail, with emergency measures already being put in place.
The multi-agency Emergency Planning Group for the Western Isles, (WIEPCG) met today at noon to discuss the severe weather forecast for tonight and tomorrow.
High winds are expected with gusts of up to 90mph and an amber warning has been issued.
A severe weather warning from the Met Office, valid from 6pm today until noon on Friday, read: “South-westerly severe gales will develop later on Thursday, increasing storm force for a time as they veer westerly overnight into Friday morning.
“Gusts of 70 to 80 mph are likely, and perhaps 90 mph across exposed locations. Winds will begin to decrease across the Western Isles and the mainland on Friday morning. The strongest winds over the Northern Isles will occur on Friday morning before becoming less strong on Friday afternoon.
“Lightning associated with frequent showers will be an additional hazard, whilst large waves may lead to over-topping along some coasts and causeways. The public should be prepared for disruption to transport and power supplies.”
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All schools and nurseries in the Western Isles will be closed to pupils tomorrow but will open for teaching staff from 10am.
Buses will be running a limited service as follows:
Thursday, November 12 – The last public buses throughout the Western Isles will be at 6pm - users should try to use earlier services if possible, particularly Tarbert onwards and Stornoway to Point route.
The last bus from Stornoway to Tarbert will leave at 5.10pm – 10 minutes earlier than usual.
The last services north from Balivanich will be at 3.25pm and south at 5pm.
The last services north from Lionacleit will be at 3:50pm and south at 5.10pm .
Public bus services across the whole region will resume on the normal timetable from 9.30am on Friday.
Passengers are advised to contact bus operators directly using the contact phone numbers with the current public bus timetables. Timetables are available on the Comhairle website.
The public are advised to travel with care, particularly on causeways, which will be closed to high-sided vehicles from 6pm this evening.
CnES Roads and Police will be monitoring all causeways.
The public are advised to secure any lose debris. The construction industry is advised to secure scaffolding and any lose items on building sites.
The Comhairle would ask family, neighbours and friends living nearby to assist and support elderly and vulnerable people.
All libraries will be closing at 4pm today and will reopen to the public at 10am tomorrow morning. The Stornoway Coffee Shop will close to the public at 3pm today.
In addition, all sports and leisure facilities in the Western Isles will close at 4pm today and will reopen at 10am tomorrow morning.
Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) is reminding members of the public to take extra care if using candles during any power cuts which occur due to winter storms
The health service will continue to operate and the hospitals will be open as normal. Where clinics have been affected, patients will have been contacted. There may be some disruption to general practice and anyone with an appointment should contact their practice.
Barra Medical Practice closed at midday today and will reopen tomorrow.
All health service users who are due to have an evening care service tonight will be attended to before 6pm to allow Home Staff to travel home safely, there will be local staff on standby till 9pm to attend with Coastguard support, co-ordinated by supervisors.
Overnight Support Service will be on standby with a view to going out after 4am to attend vulnerable service users if conditions allow, measures have been put in place to minimise the risk to the most vulnerable service users.
SSE is on yellow alert and has put in place its contingency plans, ensuring optimum staffing levels to deal with any damage the storm may cause to the electricity network. Any customers who lose their electricity supply are urged to contact SSE on 0800 300 999 to report damage or highlight neighbours or friends who may need extra help.
The public are advised not to put bins out overnight. The bin service will begin half an hour later tomorrow morning, Friday 13th November.
Loganair has confirmed that, as things stand, they do not anticipate any cancellation to flights tomorrow. Caledonian MacBrayne has confirmed that all ferry services to and from the Western Isles are cancelled for Thursday and Friday.
All services are subject to further disruption.
The Comhairle will operate an emergency response tomorrow morning from 7am tomorrow.
Updates will be provided via the Public Information section of the Comhairle’s website.
WIEPCG are on Facebook where information will also be updated as appropriate.