Thousands remain without power after storms

SHEPD technical staff at Balmaha near Loch Lomond

Thousands of homes remain without power following the storms that have been battering Scotland.

A total of 32,000 Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) customers in the north and 1,500 supplied by Scottish Power further south of the country are affected.

SSE said engineers worked through the night to try to restore power to homes.

Heavy snowfalls and ice overnight have made some roads impassable and access to the network difficult.

Alan Broadbent, SSE’s director of engineering said: “Our electricity network was battered continuously by hurricane winds for eight hours on Thursday night and during much of Friday.

“This has weakened it in places, which caused more power cuts overnight.

Gavin Steel, Scottish and Southern Energy: ”We would like to apologise to customers who have been without power overnight”

“I know an apology may not be much comfort for our customers who have been without power, but I would like to reassure them that we are doing all we possibly can during extremely treacherous, challenging and severe weather conditions.”

By lunchtime on Saturday, engineers from SSE-owned Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution had restored supplies to 73,000 customers, following hurricane winds of up to 113mph in places.

Orkney and Shetland were warned they could experience gusts of up to 100mph (160km/h). A gust of 101mph was later recorded in Shetland.

A Met Office yellow “be aware” warning for wind is in force for the Highlands and Northern and Western Isles until 18:00 on Saturday.

Another yellow warning for snow and ice is in force for most of the country until midday on Sunday.

The warning comes after hurricane-force gusts left tens of thousands of homes without power across Scotland on Friday.

Robert Pigott reports: ”The ferocious onslaught brought down power lines”

The bad weather has toppled power lines and uprooted trees and on Friday caused the suspension of all ScotRail trains, although some limited services later resumed.

The train operator reported more than a dozen route issues on Saturday, particularly on northern and coastal services.

A number of train services have been suspended.

Waves crash against the sea wall on the Ayrshire coast Waves crash against the sea wall on the Ayrshire coast

Some services from Inverness to the North, and Kyle, as well as those between Dumbarton Central and Helensburgh Central and from Glasgow to Oban, Fort William and Mallaig will not resume until late on Sunday afternoon.

Full updates are available on the ScotRail website.

National Rail said trains between Edinburgh and Glasgow Central via Carstairs would divert and not call at Motherwell.

There are also warnings on Scotland’s road bridges and some ferry services have been cancelled.

Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne has listed about two dozen services facing weather-related disruption or cancellation.

Numerous flood alerts and warnings remain in place for much of Scotland.

Warnings are alerts are also in place in England and Wales.

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In England, two men were reported lost at sea after getting into trouble in the water off the coast of Brighton in “severe weather” in the early hours.

Strong winds also caused severe problems on roads in Yorkshire and the north-east of England as a number of lorries were blown over, blocking carriageways.

Tree on road at Dalry, Ayrshire
A tree narrowly missed several parked vehicles in Dalry, Ayrshire
network rail engineersEngineers are working to restore rail services and electricity supplies

SSE had mobilised 1,000 technical and support staff ahead of Friday’s storm, with engineers working in “extremely challenging and potentially dangerous conditions” to reconnect electricity.

The company said about 1,200 engineers and support staff would be deployed on Saturday.

Eleven catering stations have been set up where people can get a hot meal.

Rural areas were the worst hit, especially around Dingwall and in Inverness-shire, the Western Isles and Skye.

Other areas affected included parts of Aberdeenshire and rural areas around Wick, Oban and Fort William, as well as Buchan, Dunblane, Dunoon, Elgin and Huntly.

Scottish Power Energy Networks said it had managed to reconnect 20,000 homes, with a further 800 still affected by “pockets of faults mainly across the central belt, from Ayrshire to Lanarkshire and across to the Lothians”.

On Friday, BBC Weather said gusts reached 113mph in Stornoway, 110mph at Loch Glascarnoch, and 97mph at Altnaharra. Speeds of 61mph have been recorded overnight at Glasgow and Edinburgh airports.

A gust of 140mph was recorded at the summit of Cairngorm and the BBC Winterwatch studio, in a cabin on the Mar Lodge Estate in the Cairngorms, was destroyed by the winds.

Storm pounds northern California

Aidan Perez, left, 12, and Christopher Dow, right, 11, use a shopping cart to get around the flooded parking lot of a shopping center Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014, in Healdsburg, California 11December 2014

More than 220,000 people are without power after heavy rains and high winds slammed northern California.

The storm brought rainfall of more than an inch an hour in San Francisco and winds gusts of 140mph (225km/h) in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Flooding has already closed two major motorways in the area, delayed public transport, cancelled 240 flights and shut ferry services.

The rain is much needed in the drought-hit state but mudslides are a concern.

Power cuts were widespread, from the suburban area south of San Francisco to Humboldt, near the Oregon border.

Light vehicle traffic is seen on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California 11 December 2014
The Golden Gate Bridge is designed to sway safely in high winds but officials were worried about accidents
A vineyard is flooded along Highway 101 in Winsor California 11 december 2014
A vineyard along a major motorway floods

“It’s a two-pronged punch – it’s wind and rain,” National Weather Service forecaster Diana Henderson said. “Once the ground gets saturated and the winds are howling, there’s a bigger chance of trees going down on power lines.”

There were multiple vehicle accidents but no series injuries.

Rain and floods also led to rare weather-related school closures for students in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz County.

Some 240 flights at San Francisco’s airport were cancelled and delays averaged two hours, said a spokesman.

In Santa Cruz, a young child was trapped after an 80ft (24m) tree fell on his arm and shoulder,

Rescuers with chain saws cut it apart and the student was taken to hospital in a good condition.

In the small town of Healdsburg, cars were stalled in heavily flooded streets.

A group of girls laugh while running down a flooded street in Healdsburg, California 11 december 2014
Students had a rare weather-related school cancellation

Grocery store employee Laura Cobar said the water was rising and she feared it might enter the shop.

“We got kids canoeing in our parking lot, and there’s water up to our doors” she said.

But surfers welcomed forecast of waves as high as 15ft and unseasonably warm temperatures near San Francisco Bay and ski resorts in the northern Sierra Nevada were hoping for more than two feet of snow.

Typhoon Hagupit barrels toward the Philippines, threatens storm surges

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Rain lashed parts of the Philippines on Saturday as Typhoon Hagupit barreled toward the coast, bringing roaring winds and the threat of massive storm surges.

Satellite images show the eye of the storm, which lost its super typhoon status again Saturday, about 250 kilometers (150 miles) off the eastern coast of the island nation.

The storm, the strongest so far this year, is expected to make landfall Saturday evening or Sunday morning, local time, over the Eastern Samar to Northern Samar area, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

It’s packing sustained winds of 195 kilometers an hour (313 mph) near the storm’s center, with gusts of up to 230 kph (370 mph).

Millions of people have been scrambling to get out of the typhoon’s way, or battening down in hotels on higher ground, away from the coast.

Public storm warning signals have been applied in a number of provinces amid predictions winds could rip off roofs, cut power and damage buildings. Residents in low-lying areas have been warned about possible flash floods and landslides.

Preparing for the worst

While current forecasts show the storm skirting north of Tacloban, the people there aren’t taking any chances.

They suffered enormously when Super Typhoon Haiyan smashed into the coast last November, killing more than 6,000 people and creating apocalyptic scenes of splintered houses, ships on streets and and debris piles for as far as the eye could see.

Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez said they’re better prepared this year after learning the lessons of Haiyan a year ago. Residents are taking the storm warnings seriously and most people have fled the city, he said.

This time, Hagupit, known locally as Typhoon Ruby, is expected to cross the coast farther north, toward Legazpi.

Officials there expected to evacuate an estimated 75,000 people ahead of the typhoon’s arrival, Mayor Noel Rosal said Friday.

“There’s a danger that there will be heavy rains for about four hours and I am very, very worried at this moment,” Rosal said.

Most forecasters predict the storm will move northwest through the island nation after landfall, passing south of the capital city of Manila. PAGASA projects that the storm will exit the country on Wednesday.

Hagupit, the name used by World Meteorological Organization, means “lash” in Filipino.

Fears over effects of the storm

With the storm fast approaching, authorities are not only worried about the typhoon itself, but the effects of the fierce winds, possible flooding and storm surge.

PAGASA warned of intense rainfall between 7.5 millimeters and 20 millimeters per hour and rough seas. It also warned of storm surge that could reach up to 5 meters (16 feet) high.

More than 80 domestic flights were canceled, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Schools, businesses and government offices closed at the end of the week to give people time to prepare. Government agencies stockpiled tens of thousands of canned food packages in case of shortages.

Shop owners nailed boards on windows to protect them from wind, while fishermen moved boats onto dry land.

Many Filipinos took to social media to spread warnings and urge one another to prepare and pray for the country.