A MAN forced to abandon his van on the Forth Road Bridge in howling gale force winds has been labelled “extremely irresponsible” and “reckless”.
The van was tipped over and left tilting at a precarious 45-degree angle at the height of yesterday morning’s rush-hour chaos. The 62-year-old was travelling from Fife to Edinburgh when he ignored a series of large electronic message boards declaring the bridge closed to high-sided vehicles. The white Luton van started crossing at about 8.10am, but had made it less than a few hundred metres when it started leaning dangerously.
CCTV footage shows the man stopped the vehicle, with the metal barrier running alongside the carriageway the only thing that stopped it from flipping over on its side. The crossing was closed to all traffic minutes later at 8.15am and stayed shut for about two hours.
AA spokesman Luke Bosdet said the “nitwit” needed “the book thrown at him”. He said: “That is a new definition of reckless. You’re not just putting your own life in danger, but you’re endangering the emergency services.”
The van was removed at about 10am.
• A man is expected to be charged with a driving offence. Police said a report has been sent to the procurator fiscal.
Weather mayhem across the Lothians
A clean-up operation is under way after hurricane-force winds brought three hours of chaos to the Capital.
Gusts of up to 80mph battered the Lothians, killing a lorry driver and leaving another man in hospital after he was struck by a falling tree in the Meadows.
Robert Dellow, 54, from Lowestoft, Suffolk, was just a mile from his destination in Bathgate, West Lothian, when his HGV was blown onto two cars on the A801. Four other motorists were taken to hospital.
His boss, Ron Cornell, general manager of Norfolk-based Neil Bomford Haulage, said: “Our sympathies go to all of his family.”
The gale-force weather damaged buildings and shut down the rail network until 1.30pm – causing travel misery for thousands.
One motorist ignored signs declaring the Forth Road Bridge was closed and was forced to abandon his van when it tipped against a metal barrier.
With rail services cancelled, many commuters struggled to make it to work as the wind brought down trees on rail lines. Falling slates, flying debris and toppled trees have caused the most damage and led to a day of frantic activity for emergency services, roofers and power workers.
Scott Miller, managing director of Compass Roofing based at West Bowling Green Street, said: “The phone has been non-stop all morning.
“It’s a busy time of year for us anyway but we really have been run off our feet.
“A lot of people have been caught out. We’ve got guys up at Pilrig Street where an entire flat roof has lifted off.
“But at least, the wind has died down and we’re at least able to get our guys out there for repairs. There’s been some spectacular damage and we’re run off our feet.”
St Mary’s RC Primary School in East London Street remains closed today following damage to its roof yesterday.
Insurance company Zurich said it was dealing with a 50 per cent rise in inquiries following the storm.
Fears of flash tidal flooding led to warnings from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency that a stretch of the east coast, including Portobello, Musselburgh and Dunbar, could be engulfed by waves.
Portobello prom was cordoned off in anticipation of an extreme high tide which was expected to peak in the early hours of this morning.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service were braced for call-outs through the night but none came as sea defences were not breached.
Sandbags were put in place in Musselburgh to stem the flow of the River Esk, which burst its banks yesterday.
The Met Office said although the winds would die down in the coming days, the Lothians would be faced with plunging temperatures and even snow on higher ground. Edinburgh City Council’s environment leader, Lesley Hinds, said staff would continue to prioritise the clearing of any high wind damage including fallen trees, adding it was too early to put a cost to the storm damage and the number of trees which had fallen.
She added: “The council has contingency plans in place to deal with high winds and severe weather. A big thank you goes out to all the staff who were working hard, battling the elements to keep the city running.”
Three hours of chaos
With news of the storm brewing, rail operator ScotRail announces no trains will run before 7am. Fallen trees on the line cause all trains in Scotland to be stopped until 1.30pm when a partial service restarted.
5.30am: A bike shed roof crashes through a section of the £130,000 external fencing at football club Spartans, destroying a portion of advertising hoardings at its Ainslie Park ground.
7.55am: A driver at Quality Street, Davidson’s Mains, had a lucky escape when the car he was driving was struck by a beech tree. An eyewitness said: “When we went outside there was a car there under a large tree which had fallen over the road from Davidson’s Mains Park. Thankfully, we heard he only had minor injuries.
8.07am: A 61-year-old man was taken to hospital after being hit by a falling tree in the Meadows. Police Scotland closed off all walkways at the city’s Melville Drive following the incident.
8.10am: A HGV is blown onto two cars on the A801, north of the Boghead Roundabout, in West Lothian. The 55-year-old driver, thought to be from Suffolk was killed at the scene.
9am: A flight to Glasgow was diverted to Edinburgh after it was forced to abort two landing attempts. The easyJet plane, which departed Gatwick at 7.35am, was then diverted from Edinburgh as the storm spread, eventually landing in Manchester.
10am: Edinburgh’s Christmas announces the winter market at Princes Street and St Andrew’s Square will both be closed until the afternoon. The Nelson and Scott Monuments were also closed.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service responded to 63 incidents between 7-10am and admitted at times they were “struggling to cope.” St Mary’s RC Primary School in East London Street remains closed today following damage to its roof.