STORM-FORCE winds were set to batter the Lothians today, with the potential to damage buildings and disrupt travel.
Forecasters predicted gales of up to 90mph would play havoc with the city’s transport network as the Met Office issued a red warning for wind – the agency’s highest weather alert.
Schools in Edinburgh, East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian were closing at noon with the worst of the weather expected late this afternoon.
The Scottish Government said severe gales were almost certain to close key routes.
Travel conditions on the roads were expected to be “extremely poor” between 3pm and 6pm, with significant delays expected during rush hour, while all main road bridges faced the risk of closure.
Disruption to power supplies and property was also a strong possibility, Transport Scotland warned.
Commuters were being urged to check the latest travel advice and plan their journeys home carefully.
Network Rail was due to apply speed restrictions of 50mph if gusts were as severe as have been forecast, while ScotRail has withdrawn the following services: Edinburgh to Glenrothes; Edinburgh to Glasgow Central via Shotts (express services withdrawn in both directions); Edinburgh to Milngavie via Airdrie/Bathgate (withdrawn in both directions).
Newcraighall to Edinburgh will have a shuttle train service while amendments have been made to several other rail links between the Capital, Cowdenbeath, Dunblane, Alloa, Helensburgh and Glasgow.
Extra staff are also being drafted in by ScotRail to help cope with the expected disruption.
Steve Montgomery, ScotRail’s managing director, said: “We will constantly review weather forecasts. Our aim is to ensure as robust a service as possible.”
Flights in and out of Edinburgh Airport were expected to face delays and cancellations. Passengers were advised to check with their airlines.
A spokesman said: “We are expecting some disruption. Safety has to be at the core of what we do.”
A council task force was on alert to clear fallen trees and other debris from roads while there were warnings roads and parks may have to be closed to carry out work or “prevent risk of harm”.
Scaffolding was reported having fallen into the street at West Coates near Stanhope Street and there were reports of flooding on the roads in Bathgate.
A Met Office spokesman said conditions today would be “very unpleasant”.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Keith Brown said the weather today could provide a “major challenge for our transport system, commuters and the public”.
He said: “We are in regular contact with the Met Office, the police, operating companies, power suppliers and other authorities and agencies to ensure everything that can be done is being done.”
* A Chrsitmas carol concert in aid of Edinburgh’s veterans has been cancelled due to the weather.
The service was due to be held at The Parish of St Cuthbert on Lothian Road at 7.30pm tonight (Thursday).