Nature and Environment 4904 Views by Chris Ramsey

Scotland's far-from-perfect storm

In the early hours of Saturday 15th December 2012, high tide brought chaos to Scotland’s east coast. From the Shetland Islands to North Berwick on the English border, the sea and wind battered communities well-used to extreme weather. Tidal forces combined with south-easterly gale-force winds and low pressure atmospheric conditions to whip up what has been described as ‘the perfect storm’, although it’s oxymoronic to describe any storm as ‘perfect’.

The only fatality happened at the start of the storm on Friday, at sea. The Vos Sailor, a rescue and emergency response vessel, took on water 120 miles off Aberdeen. One of her crew was swept overboard by 6M high waves. 11 other seamen were winched to safety. After drifting without power in raging seas, the badly-damaged vessel, carrying the body of the dead crewman, was taken under tow by a salvage tug to Fraserburgh harbour.

In Peterhead during Saturday morning, the town's RNLI lifeboat was launched in horrendous conditions to rescue three people stranded on one side of the harbour. Quayside fish processing factories were seriously damaged by the gale and huge waves: now workers face the festive season under the spectre of unemployment.

In Stonehaven - a town accustomed to flooding - residents were evacuated from a sheltered housing complex to be re-housed in temporary accommodation. The village of Kingston in Moray was completely cut off after its sea defenses were breached. There was port damage at Lossiemouth where the harbour wall- after withstanding the North Sea for 150 years – collapsed. Sections of sea defenses were also destroyed at Boddam, Balintore and Wick. A shipping container broke loose and caused damage at North Berwick.

On a lighter note, police, coastguards and the fire brigade were called when an unoccupied car was swept off Collieston pier. After depositing some golf clubs on the beach to increase buoyancy, the Passat did a quick tour of the harbour: it was last seen heading towards Norway with its alarm system flashing. Locals jest that this would be a better story had the car been a Marina. The insurance claim will make interesting reading, and the shipping alert has raised a few nautical eyebrows.

The clean-up is well underway. The costs in fiscal and human terms are being counted, as blighted communities rally and rise to the challenges. A sea-faring Nation with deep respect for the forces of Nature, Scotland has weathered worse, but this was indeed a freak storm.


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