Monday, 28 February 2005

Wednesday 19/01/05

Weather dawned not very pleasant, although the snow has gone. There is a strong wind and drizzle. There was neither bread nor papers nextdoor. Newspapers turned up during my session on-line, but had to come back later for the bread. Got an email back from the editor of a book I had bought. Thought they had printed the wrong picture of "Muck from Eigg". When I viewed the original, it appears that they had done the cropping of the image so unfortunate, that it was not recognisable as being taken from Grulin. At 3.20, it's blowing a gale and bucketing down with rain. Central heating engineer turns up at 3.50 to clean up the machine. And hey presto! it works. Showers are accompanied by strong squalls. Ferry services are disrupted up and down the west coast. Dramatic seas on Loch Erisort as a result of the winds. After dark, curtains of rain sweep the road. Wintry shower clatters down just before 7; gales with winds up to 80 to 90 mph are expected for tonight. When putting the wheeliebins out at 7.40, it was blowy. Another hailshower passes at 8.30, the first of many. It will be 13C in London today, but only 5C up here. Snow showers in the northern isles. A bright but hazy moon at 10.40.

Tuesday 18/01/05

Scattered layer of snow outside, heating doesn't work at all now. Nipped nextdoor to borrow the gas heater and use the Internet. Went for a stroll up the road at midday and returned across a sodden moor. A shower of sleet and rain started at 1pm, just on my return. A layer of 25 cm, 10 in, has fallen in Central Scotland. Read in the Press & Journal that local radiostation Isles FM had received £50,000 from powercompany SSE for relaying information about power outages, which allowed them to pinpoint troublespots. Weather remains cold but with sunny intervals and a strong northwest wind. Darkness falls after 5pm.

Saturday, 26 February 2005

Monday 17th January 2005

Another cold night, followed by a day of frequent and heavy wintry showers. Hail, snow, sleet all day, interspersed with sunny intervals. Temperature is right down at only +4. Went to Stornoway for shopping, and a 45 minute Internet session at point1, since the library computer is down. Bought a book with Harris stories. A walk down Bells Road, after lunch at HS1, concluded proceedings in town. On return to Ravenspoint, the central heating really doesn't want to work for more than a few minutes at a stretch. Great image of the Harris and Eishken hills, clad in snow, set against the dark cloud of a shower further south. It's not very nice outside. One Dutch car on the road, must have come off the lunchtime ferry. This was quite late, at 2pm. One passenger on the bus shouted stop, so the driver slammed on the brakes, and backed up to the desired alighting point for the passenger concerned. This was at the far end of Laxay. Chappie had rung his mum at the east end of the village to say he was nearly there. The Stornoway Gazette finally appeared in Kershader, courtesy of MacDonald coaches and myself. Well, after 40 minutes of faffing about the central heating finally works at 3.50. The Claitair Hotel, just off Balallan is closed. It has sustained storm damage in the shape of 2 windows blown in and a lot of tiles off the roof. The island of Sanda, between Kintyre and Ulster, had it first boat since December 19th on January 13th! Weather too poor. At 4.20 just after sunset, a thick layer of ice is on the ground. Many facilities, such as schools, will be closed tomorrow due to atrocious weather conditions. Snow is expected with a layer of 5 - 10 cms. It starts at 10 o'clock, when a nice layer lies across the road. An hour later, a group of 5 sheep crosses the road and vanishes in the darkness beyond.

Friday, 25 February 2005

Sunday 16th January

Windy again, this morning, but with clear periods until lunchtime. Rain started at 1pm ; an ominous bleeping noise indicated a power outage at 1.30. So here we are again, waiting for the temperature to fall. Heard an outrageous story from Benbecula where a patient's relative had to drive the ambulance, as there were insufficient ambulance crew; the lone paramedic had to administer oxygen to the patient. Power returned at 5.20, but having problems with the central heating.

Saturday 15th January 2005

A very dreich day, with rain on and off. Cloud hangs low, at about 800 feet. Roofs are being fixed all over the district. Whilst in town for the shopping, had lunch in the chinese restaurant, which was disappointing. Dug out some old maps in the library. Found the seaweed on the seats at the Bridge off Bayhead, roadsigns decapitated. Returned to Lochs on the 2.20 bus. A car lay on its roof 1/2 mile north of Keose. Another car was sitting nearby, waiting for the emergency services. Storm damage is estimated at tens of millions. More rain and blizzards tomorrow, followed by blizzards during the new week.

Friday 14th January 2005

A cold night, in spite of 2 duvets. Draft through window didn't help. At least the electricity is back to normal. Heard that Francis Street in Stornoway is closed between the County Hotel and Keith Street as rooftiles are flying around off the roof of the Post Office. Only people with a doctor's appointment are allowed through Francis Street. Even if you haven't, you may still need one if you get hit by a tile... Bad joke, I know.

The Kershader Centre is full of hard-working folks again. The shopkeeper is checking the contents of the freezer, which has been off for 48 hours. Some items had to be thrown out, as they had thawed. A van from Western Isles Council comes in to repair the roof next door. Papers arrived at midday, but without the Gazette.

Other people are reported to nearly have been swept off the Uist causeway, one man saved a family of 4 from a submerged car. All had fled homes in terror of shingle and debris being flung against their houses.No networks on the mobile, so even the Laxay transmitter is off. It's still a bit windy today, also cold at 7C. Drizzle and poor visibility. The garden pond is still sitting in the wrong garden on Ivor Hill. A member of the Scottish Executive, Kathie Jamieson, spoke on Isles FM about recent events. Any request for financial assistance from Comhairle nan Eileanan Siar would be treated sympathetically. Isles FM still run that misleading ad for Air Caledonian - they don't fly out of Stornoway anymore and their railtravel vouchers don't work. Still no TV or mobile signals until 4pm. Ferries are cancelled in Orkney and the Clyde. Later in the afternoon, news comes through that all 5 bodies of people drowned off the Uist causeway have now been recovered. Advice being issued that people should keep candles, a torch, a battery-powered radio and some family handy in a cupboard <sigh>.


Thursday, 3 February 2005

The Hurricane - 13/01/2005

Nice, benign morning, but cold. Remains of wintry showers on the ground. Bus arrived a little after 10. Had previously retrieved the dustbins and their contents (yuk) from the hill behind the hostel. Fair amount of damage along the road to Stornoway. Garage wrecked, trees down by the dozen, trailers overturned and an isolator dangling loose on a powerline. Bins as well - anyone missing their bin? It's sitting in the garden at 6 Back (Isles FM). A row of pinetrees is uprooted in Balallan, some trees have snapped halfway down the stem. Fences are blown over as well. A funeral causes a tailback on the A859 at Laxay, because mourners park on the road. A huge number of trees are blown over in Willow Glen, including the ones that were blocking the road a few days ago. Sandbags outside houses on Bayhead, seaweed on seats at the Bridge. The grounds of Lews Castle are devastated, scores of trees (300-400) blown down, situation remains precarious. Christmas lighting has been smashed all along the harbour front. In the town, repairs are being carried out on Cromwell Street, and on the corner of Kenneth Street and South Beach Street, where the Star restaurant was damaged by flying debris. Two boats lie wrecked on the shore next to the ferryterminal. Owners clamber over boulders to check their state. Weather absolutely perfect - sunny, not a breath of wind and not too cold. Incredible, after the storms. Boat came in for the first time after Tuesday morning. Lots of electricity vans came off. Spoke to a few shopkeepers about their experiences and overheard several people exchanging experiences and showing each other their damage. Nice "warm" and sunny. Had a meal at HS-1, to compensate for not having a hot meal for a few days. Went back on the 2.20 bus. Terrible story of a family of 5, grandparents, parents and kids aged 5 and 7. They had fled their house because of rising floodwaters in two cars. These got swept off the causeway between South Uist and Benbecula, and they all drowned. Eitsal transmitter is still off air. Now a gardenpond has ended up in the wrong garden. Not all schools will reopen in the morning. People are urged to check on elderly or infirm neighbours. Missing your oiltank? It's lying in the loch just as you get into Balallan. Fire at Benbecula Hospital, worsened by an oxygen tank. Visitors are helped to move patients out of the affected ward. On return to Kershader, the power was still off, but it should come back this evening. Can't wait... It's 4.35, and I'm back to writing by torchlight. Have a book with walks and a book with Lewis history to read. Laxay has its lights back on, lucky them. Still, could be worse. Gravir has no water as the pumping station at Garyvard has no power. Eating habits slightly altered. Soaking the porridge overnight. Everyone was plundering a rather empty CO-op of buns and the like, if their power was still off. Western Isles hospital will resume normal service tomorrow, it's been on an emergency footing since Tuesday. Staff stayed in overnight Tuesday/Wednesday on account of weather. New moon in the southwest at 5pm. Not completely dark at 5.30, 85 minutes after sunset (4.06); sun rises at 9.03. Balallan is lit up again - when do we follow? At 5.50, the lights are back on, 48 hours and 30 minutes after going off, leaving that brief spell at 6.23 on Tuesday to one side. Central heating boiler plays up, need to reset it continually. Electrics still seem to wobble. There are apparently still problems at Lemreway, 10 miles down the road. Mysterious flood in kitchen, hot water tank had a lot of water on the floor. The librarian in Stornoway library was blown all over the shop on Tuesday. Still no reception on FM, apart from Isles FM, so no BBC; and no TV reception either. Don't know when that's going to be back. Various bits and pieces on Isles FM, including a song with rude lyrics, which was cut short very quickly by the DJ. Frost expected tonight; busdriver nearly lost his bus on a patch of ice at Orinsay this morning. Power still off in many areas. At 8 o'clock were blacked out briefly. Schools remain closed tomorrow, good week for the kids. Nipped out at 8.30 to watch the stars. Saw the Milky Way and Jupiter in Gemini. Have the hot water and the hot shower back: bliss...

The Hurricane - 12/01/2005

Very disturbed night, with the wind shaking the building. Electricity remains off. Trains, planes, ferries: the lot are cancelled. Shop nextdoor is closed, a rooftile lies in front of the door and one tile has come off the roof of the centre next door. Storm has been rampaging through Stornoway, and high tide led to flooding. Overnight windspeeds: Barra 106 mph, Stornoway 99 mph (steady speed: 62 mph), North Rona (40 miles north of Lewis) 124 mph. Briefly ventured out at 12.30, found the minibus for the centre had lost all its windows on the windward side, blown in. Walked round to the top of the road, then doubled back through the moorland. Encountered Mr McLeod who stopped short of calling me mad for venturing out in this weather. Shower started, which changed to hail, and very strong winds. People are asked not to venture into the Lews Castle grounds, as trees are coming down. Likewise, the Willow Glen road. Caught the shoplady, so have beans and bread. There is no busservice today. There is no mains water in Gravir and Achmore. The Eitsal transmitter is off with stormdamage. The Co-op on Macaulay Road in S'way reopened at 3 after they fixed the roof. The sun comes through at 3.10. Funny, all the water had been blown out of the U-bend in the toilet early this morning. Had to flush in order to fill it up again. Electricity not expected back on until tomorrow evening. At 4.30, Laxay had the electric back on. Found that local supply comes across the loch from there.More than half the island is still without power, so as yet: hanging on in a rather cold hostel. Only one room heated on a gas-heater which smells. Went to bed at 8 - all the emergency lights are out and it's pitchdark.

Tuesday, 1 February 2005

The Hurricane - 11/01/2005

Tuesday 11 January

Gales forecast for today, so decided not to go out for walk. Could have done, in retrospect. The sun was out at 3pm, but then all hell broke loose. Alarming reports on Radio Scotland, no ferry, the Isle of Lewis did not leave Ullapool after the early sailing and Western Isles Council has closed libraries, schools for tomorrow. Calmac has cancelled sailings on ALL its routes. At 5.20pm the power went off. It's off in Uig (Lewis) and all of Lochs. There is no signal on the entire FM-band; the transmitter at Eitsal is off. Isles FM is still going as this has a separate transmitter in Stornoway. Power briefly came back at 6.23, but didn't last. Blue lights at Laxay, apparently police telling people to abandon their car journeys. Bins flying about at the back; I'll be retrieving them from the loch shore in a few days time. Isles FM keeps me posted with my battery powered radio. Radio Scotland on 810 kHz mediumwave reverts to football. What a night! Oh there was no TV signal either, when the power came back at 6.23. Pity it's dark. Before dusk, the caps on the waves were sheered off by the wind, at 4.15. People are being advised to stay in. Scaffolding on a site at South Beach Street in Stornoway has collapsed through the window of a restaurant across Kenneth Street. The A859 in Stornoway is shut  between Newvalley and the Manor Roundabout. Only light indoors is from the emergency lights and my own little torch, by which I write this account. Storm rampages through every nook and cranny. All sorts of meetings are being cancelled. The causeway between North Uist and Benbecula may be closed. The hostel building is shaking in the wind. Skye Bridge closes at 7.15, other bridges in Scotland follow suit. No traffic goes down the A859 - it's pitch dark. Isles FM went off air at 7.32, leaving me with a silent FM band. The transmitter keeps going, but there is no signal from the Newton Street studios. Radio Scotland on mediumwave only has bloody football until 9.30, aaargh! I'm already bored. No lights anywhere, not in the village, not in Laxay across the water either.

Sunday 09 and Monday 10/01/2005

Rain and strong southerly winds. It's not very cold, so I set off for an amble across the moors as far as the waterbutt. It's very very wet and not much fun. Even the sheep don't like it. Returned after 45 minutes. Have no mobile coverage, not even from the hilltops. City of Carlisle is well under water, electricity off and people being plucked off rooftops and from upstairs windows. Warwick Road, where I stayed in July was reduced to a river. The roundabout at the northend of the town was a 5 feet deep lake. Incredible. On return from walk found an old mitten, one I lost weeks and weeks ago. I keep losing the blinking things! Shipping forecast predicts force 7-9, occasionally force 10 from southwest. Again. Later that evening, great curtains of rain sweep down the road in the light by the war-memorial.

Monday 10th

Went to Stornoway for the shopping. Tried point1 (a computershop on Bayhead) for internet access, but their screencolours are awful. Mobile coverage returned at 10.50. Had lunch at HS-1, with "the usual". Met my West End acquaintance on the bus and had a wee chat. Returned to hostel at 3pm.

Saturday 08/01/2005

Friday the 7th was spent in idle sloth - I should be ashamed. Chatted to the Ravenspoint manager for a bit.

Saturday dawned cold and clear after a silent night. No wind blowing at the windows, no rain clattering. According to the MET office, a deep depression passed right overhead, with a central pressure of 963mb. After 9am, the first shower came, and when I went to buy a paper in the shop nextdoors, it was quite cold. The 11.39 bus was packed, and the driver had no change. Have to buy a ticket on the Harris bus. Two more people came on at Tabost, and they had to sit in each other's laps. During the ride to Stornoway, a spectacular hailshower slowly rode up from the northwest, with white curtains of precipitation over the Barvas hills. Some looked like white tornadoes. On arrival in town, the rain/sleet/hail/snow came down. Library still has no internet access, but I sat down anyway to read some books from the local history section. Pity I cannot take them away, they're for reading in only. Went for lunch at the Coffeepot in Kenneth Street, which is a snackbar. Fish and chips for £5.00, outrageous. Small serving of fish, chips not bad though. At least the food was brought to my seat. Was horrified to find the Co-op practically out of everything. Had to improvise dramatically, cubed beef instead of chicken fillet, no mince either. Aaargh! Bought myself a little radio, the size of half my handpalm. Went to the Baltic for the papers (Press & Journal + national paper), then to the busstation to wait for the 2.20 bus back to Lochs. Once on the bus got to chat to an elderly lady from Balallan and a couple I've encountered on the bus before. They told me of a nice Hogmanay at the Cabarfeidh Hotel, a good chinese to be had in town and that Lewis was so much nicer than the Isle of Man. Added my approbation to that, except I'm unfamiliar with IoM. The journey down the A859 got more and more interesting as it progressed. A very heavy shower threw a layer of solid ice across the road at Cameron Terrace, Leurbost: hail, snow, freezing rain and a spectacular thunderstorm. Cameron Terrace is very exposed, so we had frontrow position for the views. The thunder is caused by very cold air, temperature 40 degrees lower  than at groundlevel, in the upper atmosphere. The bolts were blinding, the thunder deafening. Two young teenagers behind me screamed at every bolt. The driver slowed down to a snail's pace, to 10mph (15 km/h) at one stage. Traffice coming the other way also slowed to a crawl. We crept down the road to Laxay, where the air started to clear from the west. Even the sun came out. Only 5 minutes late at Balallan, we all wished the driver luck for the rest of his journey to Tarbert, across those hills. Back at the hostel at 3pm. In the evening, news came through about dramatic flooding at Carlisle. Warwick Road in that city, where I stayed in July, is under water, as is the big roundabout at the top of town. Incredible.

Wed 05 and Thu 06/01/2005

Didn't do much on Wednesday on account of the weather - strong winds and rain.

Thursday found me making another trip to sunny Stornoway. One lady had a go at the driver on the Harris bus, as he had overlooked her standing by her gate. In town, I bought another Runrig CD, currently my favourite folk-rock band. As there is still no internet access in the library, I decided to head to Tarber, 37 miles away. The weather had deteriorated dramatically, in that it was now pouring with rain and blowing a gale, force 8-10. Ferries are cancelled, and the trip down the A859 not much fun for drivers. The busdriver kept going at a steady 50mph, but lorry drivers had big trouble. One kept stopping at corners, and arrived in Tarbert a full 15 minutes after the bus. In Balallan, a dustbin was lying across the road. It's binday today, so they're all over the place. Once into the Harris hills, things got quite spectacular. Waterfalls blew upwards, there were white-capped riders and rollers on any body of water. The descent into Tarbert was even more windy, due to the funnelling effects of the mountains. The firewall in the Tarbert library prevents me from accessing Hotmail, but nonetheless, I was busy for 75 minutes. Went for a drink in an empty bar in Tarbert. Returned on the 3.45 bus, where the onset of darkness stopped me from seeing much. Encountered my West End friend on the outskirts of Balallan, but we could not talk a lot, as I had to get off a few hundred yards up to the road. On the South Lochs junction, I could wait in the bus, and chatted to the drivers about storms. The southbound Harris bus disgorged a load of schoolkids. Returned to Kershader at 4.45. It was mild, if anything, today: 12C.

Tuesday 04/01/2005

Well, a busservice at last. Wished the driver a happy 2005, and chatted to him on the way to Balallan. It's a nice, clear day, but showers are forecast. My friend from Balallan West End was on the bus as well, so we chatted briefly. Went into HS-1 for lunch once more, then set off for the shopping. Quite a few shops are closed for the Bank Holiday. New Year's Day was on a Saturday. Bought a book called Portrona which I find singularly difficult to read; it keeps switching its perspective and time, so I'm completely confused. It's a history of Stornoway (Portrona) at the height of the herring fishery, early 20th Century. Should appeal to me as a Dutchman, bearing in mind it was the Dutch who discovered commercial herring fishery in these parts. Co-op was still waiting for the boat to come in with supplies. Shelves quite bare. Went for an amble down Newton Road, and back along the A866, the road from the airport.Got overtaken by a hailshower. Nice views of Broad Bay to the north of the town. Bus left at 2.20, returning me to Kershader at 3 o'clock.