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      General News

Gales forecast for tomorrow (Wednesday 31 January) are expected to hit earlier, spread further and last longer, according to an updated weather alert from the Met Office this morning.

As a result of the strength and sustained nature of the winds, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is telling parents that schools and nurseries will be closed to pupils and staff for the day. They are expected to re-open as normal on Thursday 1 February.

The Met Office alert was updated at 8.37am, bringing the start time of the warning period forward to 5am. Wind speeds are expected to increase late this afternoon, after a breezy day with sunshine through daylight hours.

The area affected has also been extended across northern Scotland, including the Western Isles, and Barra has been included in a separate warning issued for the south of the country and Northern England.

The Met Office says: “Very strong southwesterly winds will develop during Wednesday, easing again from the west later in the day.

“Gusts of 65-75 mph are likely, with a few places perhaps seeing gusts of up to 85mph at times.

“Over northwest Scotland these windy conditions will be accompanied by heavy rain for a time, during the morning and early afternoon.”

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) this morning issued a flood alert for the whole of the Western Isles, saying that strong winds will cause some coastal surge and large waves, with spray and wave overtopping likely along coastlines exposed to the west and southwest.

The highest risk is at the time of the high tide, at approximately 9am. HM Coastguard will have teams on watch at points of risk in case causeways need to be closed.

Loganair has once again put in place its weather disruption booking change offer, with any flights to or from Stornoway, Benbecula and Barra subject to the offer.

No refunds will be offered to those choosing to travel anyway, unless their flight is actually cancelled.

On the ferries, CalMac is running an amended timetable between Oban and Castlebay today, ahead of cancellation of that service tomorrow. They hope to add an extra sailing on Thursday 1 February.

The Uig Tarbert Lochmaddy service is liable to disruption tomorrow and sailings on the Stornoway Ullapool service is cancelled for both freight and passengers.

Morning services on the Sound of Harris and all sailings between Oban and Lochboisdale are also cancelled tomorrow. Full updates on CalMac services are available at www.calmac.co.uk/service-status

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) issued an information notice this morning, saying that Wednesday is going to be wet and very windy, with gusts of up to 85mph possible in the Western and Northern Isles and across the Highlands.

Because of the impact this stormy weather is expected to have on the electricity network, they have moved to their own heightened level of operational status and are at yellow alert.

This means they’ve brought in extra teams based in control rooms and out on the network, closer to where disruption is possible.

More people are standing by to take calls and SSEN is texting almost 150,000 people on their priority services register with useful advice and support.

UPDATE: Western Isles Citizens Advice Service says the forecast has caused them to close all their bureaux for in person appointments on Wednesday, though advisers will still be contactable via telephone and email.

The University of Highlands and Islands (UHI) has also announced closures for the day. The university's Stornoway, Barra, Benbecula, and Cnoc Soilleir campuses will be closed for the day. The Taigh Cheasabhagh campus is closed for the morning, with the afternoon status still to be decided.

The Met Office says a strong jet stream heading across the Atlantic is the reason for the spell of very windy weather.

The Norwegian Met Office is the first to name tomorrow’s gales as a storm, with red  warnings in Norway ahead of what they are calling Storm Ingunn.

They warn of ‘extremely severe’ conditions on their west coast and advise people to stay indoors, prepare for potentially long power cuts and to expect hurricane-force winds on the coast.

The pictures show a driver’s eye view of HM Coastguard on watch at the Braighe last weekend (The Old Eye Manse), SSEN’s storm update notice and a Met Office image of the jet-stream heading across the Atlantic on Wednesday