The Isle of Tiree is the outermost of the Inner Hebrides lying off the West Coast of Scotland about four hours by ferry from the Mainland ferry terminal at Oban. It means that Tiree is one of the sunniest and also one of the windiest places in the UK.
Just as sunshine is a fact of island life on Tiree so also are high winds. How we appreciated the advice when we moved to the island to be very careful when opening and closing cars doors when it is windy. There are no tall buildings and very few trees to act as wind breaks. While you don’t hear the wind in the trees, you know that the wind will find every unsealed point of entry to a home. It is not unknown for carpets to rise and fall in such conditions.
Storm Ciara is the most powerful storm to strike the UK this season of winter storms, but we have known worse in the six years we have lived here. Nevertheless the gusts reached 77mph. What marked out this storm was the fact that the gusts were over 70mph for a period lasting at least three hours.
For several hours the roof slates noisily rattled as they rose and fell. Anything outside that was not fastened down securely took off. One large shed that was in the process of construction was struck a cruel blow. It had survived Storm Brendon, but Storm Ciara proved too much for it. Several other properties on the island suffered a similar fate.
Even before the storm struck the island, Tiree had turned into a watery landscape. The loch at Island House is particularly full. Much of the Reef is under water. And there is a new water hazard at the island’s golf course.
Even before the storm arrived Tiree was experiencing high winds and rough sea conditions. The start of the school half-term meant many were taking the opportunity to have a short holiday on the Mainland or even further afield. The fortunate managed to get away on Thursday’s ferry. Almost unexpectedly and in spite of the windy weather on Friday, some managed to leave by the delayed flight that evening.
The winds began in earnest on Saturday with gusts rising to 67mph. As predicted the ferry was storm bound in Oban. Likewise Saturday’s plane was cancelled. Those who had plans to leave or return to the island were snookered.
It looks highly unlikely that there will be a ferry until Wednesday at the earliest. Monday’s sailing is already cancelled and the weather forecast for Tuesday is for similar conditions as Monday. Normally there is no crossing on a Wednesday which means that it could be Thursday before we see a ferry. This would mean that it would have been a whole week without any ferry service.
Even at low tide it is impressive at the pier
There is an urgency in that no vehicles will be able to come to Tiree or leave the island for four weeks commencing Monday 24th of February. Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) is replacing the linkspan at Tiree ferry terminal as part of a replacement programme of work. The linkspan deck is reaching the end of its serviceable life and is being replaced as part of CMAL’s ongoing programme of harbour upgrades and improvements.
With the forthcoming closure only days away there is pressure to accommodate commercial vehicles on the remaining crossings before the service becomes passenger only. Fuel, dangerous goods and animal feed need to be brought over to the island before the deadline and only one dangerous goods vehicle is allowed on any one crossing. The general feeling is that additional crossings will be required and that is not easy in the winter when ferries go for their annual overhaul and certification.
The conditions at Glasgow Airport meant that Sunday’s flight to Tiree was cancelled. The good news is that Monday morning’s flight from Glasgow landed. It was flying into a strong headwind and so was delayed by about 15 minutes.
The weather forecast is a key element of the pilot’s pre-flight checks and flight crew will continually update their weather information throughout a flight. There are lots of types of weather to consider and high winds are a major factor. On Tiree poor visibility can prevent the plane landing.
At the height of the storm on Sunday we, along with a number of other homes, had a power cut that lasted for 2 hours. We were kept informed throughout by the electric company of the progress being made and were given an estimated time of resumption of supply. We are particularly grateful to the engineers who worked in such dangerous and trying conditions. Thanks.
On Sunday evening Tiree featured in the weather forecast with the presenter ‘Kawser Quamer’ highlighting Tiree when reporting on the gusts. In the wake of Storm Ciara the forecast is for the weather to remain unsettled and very windy across the UK.
This is Island life and we belong to a community where so many look out for one another.