Power supplies and travel affected as Storm Barbara begins to take its toll
Storm Barbara has disrupted power supplies and travel and led to school closures as it batters the UK.
The Met Office has issued severe weather warnings with an amber "be prepared" wind warning in place for northern and western parts of Scotland into Friday evening.
Two separate "be aware" yellow wind warnings, one covering more northern areas where gusts of 60mph to 70 mph are expected and another covering parts of northern England, the South West and Wales, are also in place.
Gusts reaching almost 120mph were recorded on the summit of Cairn Gorm at 11am while gusts of 68mph were recorded in Stornoway in Lewis and 75mph at Mona on Anglesey in Wales on Friday afternoon.
A number of properties in Aberdeenshire, Moray and on the Western Isles lost power, with engineers working to reconnect supply.
In the Highlands more than one hundred schools were closed due to the bad weather.
There have been cancellations to some ferry services while revised schedules and cancellations of flights to the islands are also expected.
The situation is being replicated on the railways, where a revised timetable is in place, with travellers being advised to check the latest conditions before venturing out.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency issued eight flood warnings for Tayside, the Borders and Easter Ross and eight flood alerts across the country.
Scotland's transport minister Humza Yousaf said: "Ministers have been receiving regular updates on the impact of the severe weather across this week.
"We are expecting the worst of the disruption today when winds are expected to reach 90mph.
"Our transport operators and trunk road operating companies are working hard to keep services and roads running, safety has to be our top priority, so we are seeing delays and cancellations to flights and ferries.
"We would urge everyone to check the latest sources of information before they travel and keep in mind that the situation can change quickly."
Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne said more than half of the company's network has seen services cancelled for the duration of Friday while others are suspended and under constant review for any weather windows.
However, it said it managed to run a "very difficult lifeline crossing" to Barra on Thursday, complete with the island's turkeys, making the journey in seven hours instead of the usual five and a half
Festive travellers have been dealt another blow with a further amber alert for Storm Conor now being issued for the far north of the country on Boxing Day.
Met Office deputy chief meteorologist, Dan Harris said: "The wet and windy weather is a result of two deep Atlantic low-pressure systems crossing the Atlantic and passing close to the north-west of the UK, bringing the potential for some disruption to power supplies and travel, and possibly structural damage.
"Although we need to be prepared for storms Barbara and Conor, it's important to note that there will also be some less unsettled weather for many on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day."
Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), which owns and operates the electricity distribution network in the north of Scotland, remain on yellow alert with 600 frontline and support staff on stand-by.
South of the border, councils were said to be ''fully prepared'' for the onset of harsh conditions over Christmas.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents hundreds of councils in England and Wales, said it was issuing renewed advice on how to deal with flash floods and has stockpiled more than one million tonnes of salt to grit roads.
People can call 105, a free new national phone line, if the weather damages their local power network and affects electricity supply.
The number is available to people in England, Scotland and Wales, regardless of who they buy electricity from.
SSEN said that since midday engineers have restored power to 14,855 homes.
As of 6pm 445 customers remained off supply across the north of Scotland, with all homes expected to be restored during the evening.
SSEN said that in anticipation of Storm Barbara it has increased the levels of frontline and support staff and has moved engineers, equipment and welfare facilities to strategic areas, including the islands, that may be hit by the bad weather.
It said that 600 frontline and support staff are on hand across the Christmas period, around five times the normal number who would be available.
Dale Cargill, director of customer operations for SSEN, said: "So far our network has stood up well to the conditions but we won't be complacent and remain prepared to respond quickly to disruption to supplies, where it is safe to do so.
"The safety of our customers and engineers will remain a priority as we continue to respond to the impacts of Storm Barbara, particularly given the presence of lightning.
"We are acutely aware of the time of year and the increasing concern this brings and would like to reassure our customers we will be doing all we can to keep disruption to a minimum."