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Atlantic storm case study - December 2011

Coastline battered by storm

An Atlantic storm brought storm force winds to the UK in December 2011. Our accurate forecast and warnings meant the areas affected were well prepared when the storm arrived.

What happened?

As forecast, a deep Atlantic low pressure system battered the North of the UK on Thursday 8 December, causing widespread travel disruption, power cuts and school closures across Scotland. The strongest winds were in central, southern and north eastern Scotland, northern parts of Northern Ireland, and North East England. Gusts of up to 164 mph were recorded on higher ground, the highest recorded gust in the UK since November 1996. At lower levels, wind speeds of 105 mph were recorded at Tulloch Bridge, while maximums of 77 mph were recorded in Edinburgh during the rush hour, and 71 mph was observed in Glasgow at lunchtime.


Monday 5 December

We issued a yellow Severe weather warnings for windy weather in large parts of the north of the UK.

Our trusted and established partnerships across government and with contingency planners meant they had the best advice in advance of the stormy weather. This allowed emergency responders and the general public prepare for the impacts of the storm.

Met Office Public Weather Service Advisors attended daily multi-agency response team briefing meetings between the Scottish Government, Transport Scotland, Police and road operating companies to provide expert advice on the severity of weather situation.

Wednesday 7 December

The Met Office issued a red warning -  the highest level of warning - for the strong winds across parts of Scotland, warning of the possibility of both travel disruption and structural damage.

We also issued amber and yellow severe weather alerts for areas of Scotland and the north of the UK. A news release was issued, warning of the windy weather to come.

We also prepared a video forecast, which was available on YouTube and via Ready Scotland.

Thursday 8 December

Red, amber and yellow warnings were in place for areas of Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England.

We kept people up to date with the progress of the storm throughout the day with updates to our severe weather pages, interviews with the press including many local radio stations. We also posted the latest updates on our social media sites - Twitter and Facebook.

As a result, authorities and public were well prepared when the storm hit and no injuries were sustained as a result of the bad weather. 

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "The conditions are exactly as predicted when the Met Office issued its red warning."

Central Scotland Police Emergency Planning praised the Met Office for our "spot on forecasting over the last 2 days" and Grampian Police said: "thanks as always for the updates, they are vitally important to us and are a great source of detail for warning and informing our communities."

Angus Bruce, Bridge Manager at Amey, added: "I would complement the Met Office for the accuracy of their information, this helps to give us confidence in the information we receive and allows us to plan things such as the re-opening of the Erskine Bridge with confidence and accuracy."


  • Many schools, businesses, attractions and public buildings closed across Scotland.
  • Police advised against all travel in Central & Lothian & Borders areas from 2pm - 9pm on Thursday 8th December.
  • Roads closed across Scotland due to flooding, overturned vehicles and trees and debris on the road. Part of a causeway road on the Orkney island of Hoy was washed away.
  • Landmark bridges like the Erskine, Skye, Tay and Forth Road crossings were all closed to all vehicles.
  • There was severe disruption to flights, trains and ferries with many services cancelled or delayed.
  • 150,000 homes were left without power during the storm and 70,000 were still without power the following day.
  • There was widespread damage to home and buildings, including the day surgery of Kirkcaldy Hospital, where patients had to be evacuated after the roof blew off. Several wind turbines were also damaged in the high winds.
  • The cost of the disruption to Scotland is thought to be in the region of £100million.

Weather statistics

StationCounty Max gust speed
Cairngorm Summit (mountain station)Inverness shire164 mph
Aonach Mor (mountain station)Invernessshire145 mph
Cairnwell (mountain station)Aberdeenshire136 mph

Glen Ogle (mountain station)

Perthshire124 mph
Bealach Na Ba No 2 (mountain station)Ross & Cromarty118 mph
Great Dun Fell No 2 (mountain station)Cumbria107 mph
Tulloch BridgeInvernessshire105 mph
Fair IsleShetland92 mph
Tiree91 mph

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