Life-threatening rain as Met Office escalates Storm Babet to red alert

A red warning is issued only when dangerous weather is forecast and it is 'very likely there will be a risk to life'.

Key Points
Storm Babet
  • Rare red warning issued by Met Office
  • Warning means it is “very likely there will be a risk to life”
  • Red alert comes into force from 6pm on Thursday until midday on Friday
  • First Minister advises against travel “unless absolutely essential”
  • Covers an area along the coast north of Dundee up to Stonehaven.
  • ScotRail has suspended several services in the north and north east from Thursday

Storm Babet will batter Scotland with life-threatening weather with the Met Office issuing a rare red warning for rain.

A second amber warning for wind has also been issued covering the north east coast.

The storm is set to bring a month’s worth of rain within 48 hours across parts of the country. Locally, areas of Angus will see two month’s of rain in the same time.

A red warning is issued only when dangerous weather is forecast and it is “very likely there will be a risk to life”.

Police Scotland has asked drivers to consider if their journeys are really necessary. The First Minister said travel should be avoided “unless absolutely essential” in the areas on red alert.

Which parts of Scotland are set to be hit by Storm Babet?

‘Unprecedented escalation’ forecasts ‘extraordinary’ rainfall

“The Met Office have taken the unprecedented decision to escalate several weather warnings for Thursday, and in particular issue a red weather warning for rain – the first of its kind for Scotland since 2015,” said STV weather presenter Philip Petrie.

“Much of the north and east of the country will see gusts of 40-50mph, with the most severe gales occurring within the amber wind zone, around the coasts of Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Angus and Dundee.

“Thursday could see gusts in excess of 70mph at times around coasts, causing huge impacts exacerbated by prolonged heavy rainfall and the fact it is an unusual wind direction for winds of this strength.

“The red warning for rain covers parts of Angus and Aberdeenshire, and this is where we will see extraordinary amounts of rainfall in the space of 48 hours. Some areas could see 200-250mm of rainfall within the timeframe of the storm.

“Of course anyone within the red warning area should not travel unless completely necessary, and also prepare for the likelihood of flooding, disruption and danger to life from debris caused by the accompanying strong winds.”

Where and when are the weather warnings in force?

The red alert comes into force from 6pm on Thursday until midday on Friday and covers an area along the coast north of Dundee up to Stonehaven.

A yellow warning for rain comes into force from 6am on Thursday, covering all of lowland Scotland, all of the north east, and much on the inland Highlands. It ends at 6am on Saturday.

A yellow warning for wind is in force from 6am on Thursday, covering most of Fife and all of the mainland north of St Andrews, as well as Shetland and Orkney. It ends at midday on Friday.

An amber warning for rain comes into force at 6am on Thursday over Perthshire, Angus and Aberdeenshire. It ends at 6pm on Friday.

A second amber warning for wind comes into force at 10am on Thursday across the north east coast. It ends at 6pm on Thursday.

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First Minister Humza Yousaf warned against all but essential travel in parts of Scotland affected by the red weather warning from Storm Babet.

The Met Office said there is a “risk to life” from flooding in Aberdeenshire and Angus.

He posted on Twitter: “Please be aware of the challenging weather we are due to experience across Scotland, most severe from Thursday 6pm – Friday 12pm.

“Weather warning across Angus and the north east has been upgraded to red.

“Travel should be avoided unless absolutely essential.”

He added: “The Scottish Government is working with local resilience partners, including our emergency services, to ensure we keep everyone safe and mitigate disruption as best we can.”

It comes after much of Scotland suffered widespread flooding earlier this month.

“Exceptionally wet” conditions are expected for eastern Scotland with a “threat to life” amber warning for rain in force between 6am on Thursday and 6pm on Friday.

People have been urged to prepare if they are in an affected area.

There is concern that surface water flooding may be exacerbated by debris blocking drainage and culverts as a result of the high winds.

The warnings follow some of the heaviest rain Scotland has witnessed since the 1890s.

Earlier this month, parts of Scotland saw up to three weeks worth of rain fall over a short period of time, leading to businesses and homes being flooded and areas cut off due to landslips.

It comes after the body of a man swept away in the River Tay was discovered.

The country’s multi agency response team will be fully operational at the Traffic Scotland national control centre alongside the Transport Scotland resilience room to monitor conditions, respond to any major conditions, and to help co-ordinate messaging and communications.

Chief superintendent Hilary Sloan, head of road policing, said: “Our advice is to plan ahead and consider if your journey is really necessary or if it can be delayed until conditions improve.

“Stopping distances can be at least double on wet roads compared to dry conditions, and spray can reduce driver visibility.

“If you need to travel, please drive to the conditions, be prepared for delays and allow extra time for your journey.”

A number of ScotRail services will be suspended in the north and north east of the country from the beginning of service on Thursday, October 19.

This will affect services between Glasgow Queen Street and Aberdeen / Inverness, and between Edinburgh Waverley and Aberdeen / Inverness.

Due to the red weather warning and the likelihood of flooding and poor driving conditions, customers on these routes are advised not to travel as no alternative transport is available. 

The train operator expects the line closures to last until early Saturday, October 21, however this is dependent on the weather conditions and any repair work to railway infrastructure that’s required. 

Other routes across the network will be impacted by precautionary speed restrictions, meaning services may be subject to delay or cancellation. 

The full list of suspended services are as follows:

  • Aberdeen and Elgin. 
  • Edinburgh and Aberdeen via Fife. 
  • Perth and Aberdeen via Dundee.
  • Dunblane and Perth.
  • Perth and Aviemore. 
  • Tain and Wick / Thurso. 
  • All Fife Circle services.

Customers are advised that they should only travel if necessary on the routes affected by the weather warnings, to expect delays, and to check their journey before travelling on the ScotRail website, mobile app, or social media channels. 

Customers whose journey has been cancelled or disrupted due to adverse weather can travel one day before or two days after the date on their ticket. Customers can also apply for a fee-free refund on any unused tickets. 

David Simpson, ScotRail service delivery director, said: “The Met Office has issued red and amber weather warnings for Storm Babet, with heavy rain across eastern Scotland, and heavy rain and high winds in central and northern Scotland.    

“We know the impact that the withdrawal of some train services will have on customers, but our first priority is always to ensure the safety of our staff and customers. This is a necessary step to ensure everyone’s safety during the severe weather. 

“In order to keep our customers and staff safe, speed restrictions will be in place as a precautionary measure on other routes in Scotland, which will mean longer journey times. 

“For routes in the south and west of Scotland, customers are encouraged to check their journey before setting off, and keep an eye on our website, mobile app, or social media channels for live updates.” 

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