Dec 9 2011 by Johnathon Menzies, Stirling Observer Friday
RESIDENTS endured severe disruption throughout Stirlingshire and beyond as high winds and heavy rain battered the country into submission.
Pupils were sent home, businesses were closed and transport was thrown into uncertainty following a Met Office ‘Red Alert’ on Wednesday evening.
A spokesperson for Stirling Council said that the decision to shut schools at 12.30pm was made at around teatime the previous evening and communicated as swiftly as possible.
Balfron High School was closed for the entire day, while pupils at McLaren High School in Callander were sent home almost as soon as they arrived.
The local authority representative explained staff did “everything they could” to inform parents as quickly as possible, and stated Stirling Council was one of the first to take decisive action.
She added local arrangements were in place to ensure school staff waited with pupils until they were picked up; lunches were served early and preliminary Standard Grade and Higher exams rescheduled.
Several council-run activities, such as after-school clubs, scheduled meetings, and venues such as the Tolbooth, were also set to close as the Observer went to press yesterday afternoon.
“We were warned by the Met Office to expect strong winds of between 70 and 80 miles per hour, with potential gusts of up to 90mph,” the representative continued.
“Our priorities are to minimise disruption, where possible, and ensure things are as safe as possible for everyone.”
Municipal refuse collection was also suspended due to the weather. Residents were instructed to remove their bins from pavements. The council pledged to attempt to collect them as soon as possible once the winds calmed.
Central Scotland Police kept members of the public up to speed throughout the day as scores of roads throughout the region experienced flooding due to the driving wind and lashing rain.
The A81 Aberfoyle to Port of Menteith road was closed due to flooding. Several other stretches were said to be particularly badly hit but were deemed “passable with care”.
Although stating the service was “exceptionally busy”, a representative for the Scottish Ambulance Service told the Observer shortly after 1pm that there had been no major accidents .
A spokesperson for public transport provider, First Bus, said it was likely that double-deck vehicles would be taken off the road if conditions got worse.
She said vehicles were being dispatched to collect schoolchildren at their new leaving times – and that special arrangements were in place to pick up youngsters attending Dollar Academy at 2pm.
Historic Scotland confirmed that Stirling Castle was closed at 10.30am. Many shops, in the city centre and beyond, were also thought to be considering closing early – including the Thistles shopping centre.
At lunchtime yesterday, tourism body VisitScotland said: “We are advising all staff in the central belt to go home with immediate effect.”
Assistant Chief Constable Allan Moffat, of Central Scotland Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers (Scotland), urged motorists to be on their guard.
The officer said: “The predicted impact of the wind is such that it may cause structural damage and is a specific danger to high sided road vehicles.
“I recognise that this is a significant statement however it is based upon the premise of ensuring public safety and minimising the risk to road users in the affected areas.
“By travelling, motorists may be putting themselves at serious risk, such is the severity of the forecast conditions.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said ministers sought advice from weather and logistics experts on Tuesday evening after the Met Office issued a near-unprecedented warning for certain parts of the country.
The decision to close local facilities was in line with comments made by Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
She said: “The decision is a matter for individual authorities, but the warnings are of the highest level of seriousness and we are clear safety has to be the paramount issue.”