Gales set to continue into New Year

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The harsh weather over the Christmas period failed to produce the sort of dramatic emergencies that have dampened festivities further south, but there had been gales for almost a solid fortnight until Boxing Day, with more forecast until the New Year.

Lerwick Observatory technician Norie Lyall said that the 13mm of rain that fell between 9pm on Christmas Eve and 9pm on Christmas Day was “nothing exceptional” but that the strong southerly gales driving the wet had made it seem more so.

He said there had been 12 days on the trot, bar the 23rd December, when it had been blowing a gale at some point until Boxing Day.

“It’s been enough rain to make the ground wet, but when it’s being blasted along by a 50-knot wind it seems more,” Mr Lyall said. “It’s just sustained bad weather rather than exceptional.”

At Lerwick the wind had gusted to 60 knots early on Christmas Day before easing off slightly towards lunchtime. There had been more gusts in the low 50s of knots early on Boxing Day and Mr Lyall said the forecast was for gales and blustery showers to continue from the southerly quadrant over the weekend, with only short lulls between the blows.

According to Shetland Coastguard the bad weather had again affected radio masts in Yell, Fetlar and Bressay on Christmas Day, but coverage had been provided by other areas and the problems fixed by yesterday.

Christmas morning saw an unusual arrival in the form of a grey seal pup that was sheltering from the blast behind then sea wall opposite Lerwick Fire Station. A taxi driver delivering a reveler homewards took pity on the pup, which had strayed on to the road, and called police.

The police in turn called Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary, and as help sped south, police officers Ian Brown and Victoria Duthie stood watch over the foundling.

The stray selkie was picked up by Pete Bevington around 4am and whisked back up to Hillswick through the gales and driving rain. The rocky area opposite the fire station is a favourite haul-out for seals, but very exposed to southerly gales.

Sanctuary owner Jan Morgan told The Shetland Times that the seal is perhaps only two to three weeks old and still breast feeding. With this in mind she had stocked up on an analogue “sea mammal milk” that was made exclusively in Alaska and was the closest thing to mother’s finest, normally being fed to Danish pigs.

Mrs Morgan said that the sanctuary’s Facebook page had received 13,700 hits since taking delivery of the pup on Christmas morning, with plenty of suggestions for names. She has a hunch it is female, but it is difficult to be sure in an animal so young.

“She has been sleeping peacefully under the sun lamp as she is absolutely done in. Once she recovers from that, we will re-hydrate her and give her vitamins and minerals,” Mrs Morgan added.

On Monday the Northlink ferry Hjaltland sailed from Lerwick to Aberdeen at midday instead of her scheduled 5.30pm time. She arrived into Kirkwall at 5pm ahead of an early departure at 6pm. The Hjaltland arrived in Aberdeen at 3.30am on Christmas Eve and disembarkation was at 7am as normal.

The Hjaltland was scheduled to leave Aberdeen again yesterday (Boxing Day) at 5pm, and stopping off at Kirkwall en route to Lerwick. She was due to leave Orkney at 11.45pm.

The Hrossey was expected to leave Lerwick for Aberdeen at 7pm yesterday with no delays expected.

The Hrossey had meanwhile arrived in Lerwick at 2pm last Friday after she sailed from Kirkwall at 8.30 in the morning. Her arrival in Kirkwall had been delayed after she remained in Aberdeen until 7.30pm last Thursday and then followed a more westerly route through the Moray Firth to avoid the worst of the swell.

The cargo boat Helliar was scheduled to arrive in Aberdeen at midday on Christmas Day after leaving Kirkwall at 11.35am on Monday and sheltering en-route.

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About Peter Johnson

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as an employed and freelance reporter and editor for a variety of print and broadcast media outlets and as as a freelance photographer and film maker/cameraman. In addition to journalism, I have experience in construction, oil analysis, aquaculture, fisheries, the health service and oral history.

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