Power restored after 'weather bomb'
Power has been restored to thousands of homes left without electricity after gales and lightning strikes swept the north of the country.
Properties in the Western Isles and Skye have been worst affected by the stormy conditions along the west coast of Scotland over the last two days .
At the peak of the problems yesterday, around 30,000 homes lost electricity, while a further 27,000 were cut off after a lightning strike this morning.
Hundreds of engineers worked yesterday and through the night to restore supplies across the Western Isles, Shetland, Orkney and rural areas, only for lightning, which SSE said had been the biggest feature of the "weather bomb", to cause additional disruption.
All properties have now been reconnected but further problems are anticipated throughout the day.
An SSE spokesman said: "Engineers have now restored power supplies to around 27,000 customers who were without supply this morning in Skye and the Western Isles.
"Continued lightning across the Western Isles and the north west of Scotland through the day means that further faults are likely. We aim to restore all supplies as quickly as possible when faults occur.
"We would like to thank all customers who have been without electricity this morning for their patience and understanding."
Weather warnings remain in place for much of the UK but the mainland has so far survived relatively unscathed. The process behind the storm - rapid cyclogenesis - is known colloquially as a "weather bomb".
A wind speed of 144mph was recorded on the remote St Kilda islands yesterday, with gusts of more than 80mph also hitting some low-lying areas.
A Met Office amber - "be prepared" - warning was in place throughout yesterday for the west coast of Scotland, the Highlands and Islands, Orkney, Shetland and Northern Ireland.
This was downgraded to a yellow - "be aware" - warning as the gales gradually eased to be replaced by wintry showers bringing snow and ice.
Forecasters said there could be "significant" snow accumulations in parts of Scotland, with the rest of the UK set to see the white stuff over the weekend.
There is an 80% probability of icy conditions and some snow in the North of England between midnight on Friday and Sunday morning, according to the Met Office.
A cold weather alert has been issued and a statement said: " This weather could increase the health risks to vulnerable patients and disrupt the delivery of services.
"The recent cold and unsettled weather is expected to continue through to the coming weekend. A band of rain, and hill snow in the north, is expected during Thursday night.
"There is also a risk of some snow down to lower levels at times in eastern and north-eastern parts.
"Rain and snow will clear early on Friday, leaving bright but cold conditions. Brisk winds will exacerbate the cold feel at times.
"A few wintry showers will follow but any snow accumulations will be mainly restricted to hills."
Snow started falling last night with mountain rescue teams sent to help a group of motorists stranded in a blizzard in the Borders.
The Border Search and Rescue Unit said it was called to the A68 at Carter Bar to help dozens of drivers and passengers at around 10pm.
Rescue teams from Tweed Valley and Northumberland helped in the operation to tow several cars and lorries to clear the road.
Problems have continued today with drivers reporting "challenging" conditions on the M8 and M74, and accidents on the A9.
Elsewhere, planned works on the A90 Brechin Bypass have been postponed because of the weather. The £280,000 project was due to start next week but has been rearranged for the new year.
Scotland's Deputy First Minister John Swinney last night praised frontline staff for how they dealt with disruption to travel and power supplies.
He said: "Obviously there has been transport disruption, principally on the ferry network and also on some of the coastal rail services where it's just been unsafe to run trains because of the dangers of the coastal flooding that could have taken place.
"Some alerts remain in place, and we are not out of the woods yet, but any necessary repairs and safety checks on the transport network are expected to go ahead as planned."
A charity respite home for young cancer patients and their families had to be evacuated after being struck by lightning last night.
Malcolm Sargent House in Prestwick, Ayrshire, was struck at around 11pm yesterday and f irefighters were called to the scene to assess the damage
A spokesman for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said: "We received a 999 call shortly before 11pm and sent two appliances from Ayr. Firefighters reached the scene around eight minutes later and found the chimney stack on a gable end had been struck by lightning.
"Some masonry had fallen onto the boiler house roof as well as the ground so our crews cordoned off these areas and checked for any signs of fire or damage. They remained at the scene for around 70 minutes before returning to station."
Earlier today the Forth Road Bridge was closed by police after reports ice was falling from the top of the bridge but reopened around an hour later.