Schools closed and travel plans hit by heavy snow and icy roads
Snowy weather led to the closure of all schools in the isles on Monday and a number of schools the following day, while shutdowns and long delays at airports elsewhere in the UK posed some problems for Shetlanders trying to get home for Christmas.
It also put paid to the Anderson High School’s senior beanfeast, which was due to take place on Monday evening. Three hundred fifth and sixth year pupils were due to attend but head teacher Valerie Nicolson said they had decided to rearrange the beanfeast for Friday, 15th January.
Although conditions had improved by Tuesday, the last day of the autumn term, 10 schools in the West Side and in the North Mainland remained closed while the rest were open, according to head of schools Helen Budge.
Meanwhile a significant number of flights in and out of Sumburgh Airport were disrupted over the weekend, affecting the travel plans of people travelling home to visit family. Six flights were cancelled on Friday and Saturday, with the airport closing at 3pm on Saturday due to bad weather, and the Shetland to Aberdeen flight on Sunday was also cancelled.
Since then, Sumburgh Airport manager Nigel Flaws said the terminal had been able to operate more or less as normal, with continued disruption to flights mainly as a consequence of weather conditions at other airports. Aberdeen and Inverness airports were particularly badly affected as staff struggled to cope with freezing fog and heavy snowfall.
Several flights between Shetland and Kirkwall, Aberdeen and Edinburgh were cancelled at the weekend. Since then there have been a host of flights delayed by between 90 minutes and three hours, while Mr Flaws said he had heard anecdotally of people travelling home from London taking over two days to get home and finding themselves staying overnight in Kirkwall.
Flights were getting in and out of Sumburgh without difficulty yesterday, but some islanders were having problems with connecting flights from other airports as heavy snow showers left aircraft across the UK grounded.
One Shetlander trying to get home from Wales to see her family ended up missing her connection because of a delay in her flight from Cardiff to Aberdeen on Tuesday afternoon. She said she was relieved to get home yesterday morning, adding that Aberdeen Airport had been “chaos” with lots of people queuing in a desperate attempt to re-book their flights following cancellations.
Shetland Times columnist Lawrence Tulloch, who stays in North Roe, was among those trying to fly home from Edinburgh on Saturday afternoon. The flight he was on got as far as the approach to Sumburgh but the weather conditions meant they had to turn back for the capital. They eventually got home on Sunday having been given accommodation in the city centre.
Mr Tulloch said: “During this whole period we had, I felt, been well looked after but I also know from long experience that nothing, at an airport, happens quickly and on this occasion a little more up-to-date information would have prevented the anger expressed by a few of the passengers.”
Although some side roads had been virtually impassable on Sunday, the council’s roads department said that by Monday all main roads were passable with care and urged motorists to continue driving sensibly with the continued cold and icy weather.
While there have been a few minor incidents on the road caused by ice and snow, police in Lerwick said that people had by and large heeded warnings to drive carefully and only make journeys if they were absolutely necessary.
Fair Isle weatherman Dave Wheeler said the amount of snow had been varied across Shetland. He estimated that the depth had been somewhere between 5cm and 10cm although in some places it could have exceeded that.
The coldest weather came in the second half of Saturday, he said, because an area of low pressure was feeding cold air from the Arctic, Greenland and Iceland but things had warmed up since then because of winds being drawn from the east rather than the north.
Mr Wheeler is expecting today and tomorrow to remain cold and frosty, with light winds and the possibility of a few wintry showers tonight and the possibility of some heavy snow showers on Christmas Day.