The captain of the Muirneag has been widely criticised for sailing in such atrocious conditions. He has said that he had no warning of the gales at time of sailing. I'm afraid he is right. At 12.06 on Friday, I sent an email to the Met Office to query the absence of a gale warning on the Met Office website. There was only an advisory out for heavy rain. At 12.40, the Met Office sent an email back to me, saying that a warning had been issued at 10.00 for severe gales in Highland and Eilean Siar (Western Isles). This had not been present on the website at that time, but there is only my word for it.
In the days leading up to the storm, the regular sailings between
Stornoway and Ullapool had already been seriously disrupted due to
gales on Monday and Wednesday, and engine breakdowns on the Isle of Lewis ferry on Thursday. After the storm, the Isle of Lewis could not sail, again as a result of engine breakdown.
In all, there was huge pressure in the shape of empty shops, goods
backing up in Ullapool and people in Stornoway and Ullapool wishing to
go across. And if a formal gale warning is not issued until much later,
there is not a lot that can be done.
My original email, sent from another email address:
Sent: 11/11/2005 12:06:19
To: "enquiries" <email@example.com>
Subject: Severe gales - Northwest Scotland
I'm concerned that there is no advisory out for severe gales for NW
Scotland today, even though winds are gusting up to force 9 here in
Stornoway and liable to increase later.
Could you please review?
--- Reply ---
Sent: 11 November 2005 12:40:02
Thank you for your recent email.
I can confirm that we currently have the below warnings in force for
South [sic] West Scotland:
Further spells of sometimes heavy rain are expected through the rest of
Friday and Friday night giving totals of between 25 and 40mm on already
saturated ground. The public are advised to take extra care and refer to
the latest Scottish Environment Protection Agency 'Live Flood Warning
Issued by Met Office.
Valid from: Friday 11 November, 2005 at 09:00
Expires on: Saturday 12 November, 2005 at 09:00
Affecting Eilean Siar & Highland
Southerly severe gales will develop this morning over higher ground with
gusts of 70 to 80mph, increasing up to 90mph this afternoon. Later this
afternoon and through the evening winds will veer southwest then
westerly with gusts of 70-80mph also spreading to lower levels and more
populated areas. The severe gales are expected to continue well into
Friday night. Public are advised to check for new warnings and advice
through the day.
Issued by Met Office.
Valid from: Friday 11 November, 2005 at 10:00
Expires on: Friday 11 November, 2005 at 23:00
If you have any further questions or would like us to talk you through
these please contact the Customer Centre on 0870 9000 100 where one of
our advisors will be happy to help you. The number is open 24 hours a
day, seven days a week.
Customer Centre, Met Office, FitzRoy Road, Exeter, Devon, EX1 3PB,
United Kingdom. Tel: 0870 900 0100 Fax: 0870 900 5050 Email: