FIVE people were rushed to hospital today after ferocious storm force winds ripped caravans from their fixings and tossed them around like matchboxes at a Cowal holiday park.
Three of the casualties had to be airlifted to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, Renfrewshire, while the other two injured people were treated for more minor injuries at Dunoon Community Hospital.
Eight static homes – a number of which smashed into each other – were involved in the carnage at Stratheck Caravan Park, near Loch Eck, as the most violent weather for a generation swept in before 8am.
Coastguard Helicopter 100 from Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, was scrambled to the emergency at 9.10am after the Rescue 177 chopper stationed at Prestwick, Ayrshire, couldn’t get off the ground due to the extreme weather hammering the Clyde coast.
As the Stornoway crew battled their way through the atrocious conditions paramedics and Dunoon’s retained firefighters were already at the caravan park rescuing the injured before taking them by road to hospital in Dunoon.
The three seriously injured people – two women aged 35 and 30 and a 57-year-old man – were later flown to the RAH after the Coastguard chopper landed inside Dunoon Stadium at around 11.10am.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde refused to reveal the nature of the injuries suffered by the airlifted casualties, or confirm speculation that one of the women may have suffered a heart attack.
A spokesman for the health board said: “Three patients were brought to the RAH by helicopter.
“One is a 35-year-old woman whose condition is serious but stable.
“A 57-year-old man and another woman aged 30 are both stable.”
At least one caravan ended up on its roof and another appeared to have only a mangled end wall left precariously standing following the onslaught of extreme gusts of up to and beyond 90mph.
Stratheck Caravan Park is owned and run by Lochgoilhead-based Argyll Holidays – owners of the popular Hunters Quay Holiday Village which overlooks the Holy Loch.
CowalCourier.com made several attempts to contact the Stratheck park and the Argyll Holidays’ headquarters but the telephone lines just rang out today without going to voicemail.
A spokeswoman for Strathclyde Police said: “Of the two casualties who were taken to Dunoon Hospital, one has now been discharged.”
The town was a no-go zone early this morning after storm force gusts blew a giant tree across Argyll Street and ripped huge chunks of roofing from buildings in the town centre.
The huge tree, previously contained with the grounds of St John’s Church, fell directly across the road, missing the windows of the Remax Estate agency by mere inches.
Hundreds of homes and businesses in the local area were without power for most of the morning as the atrocious weather took its toll across Cowal.
Meanwhile, the Met Office put out a red alert – it’s highest warning – throughout Argyll.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) issued a flood alert as the winds battered the coastline of the Firth of Clyde – and nearly eight inches of snow was forecast to fall on higher ground.
CowalCourier.com editor David Goodwin – out capturing pictures of the storm damage – had to take cover in the doorway of Dunoon’s Commercial Bar as an almost hurricane-like gust lasting at least 10 seconds tore debris from roofs and tossed it around the air and the street like confetti.
Elsewhere, the roof of Sandbank Primary School was severely damaged with a huge section left dangling precariously over the pupils’ entry doors.
Trees were blown down at the Hunters Quay Holiday Village, with one actually smashing through the roof of a caravan there.
Debris torn from buildings at Johnston Terrace smashed the front windows of a ground floor flat, and a nearby metal street lighting pole was snapped as if it was a matchstick.
A further two trees came down over the main High Road artery linking Dunoon with Sandbank and other parts of Cowal.
Earlier today the town was on flood alert as high winds battered the coastline of the Firth of Clyde – meanwhile nearly eight inches of snow was forecast to fall on higher ground.
The weather immediately wreaked havoc of ferry timetables with services operated by both Western Ferries and Argyll Ferries cancelled for several hours before operations resumed in early afternoon.
Officials at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) have issued a ‘Flood Alert’ for “possible coastal flooding in the Firth of Clyde on Tuesday morning”.
A message on the agency’s website stated: “Strong winds are expected to cause a large tidal surge around the time of high tide, which is 8 o’clock on Tuesday morning.
“Localised flooding of low lying land along the Firth of Clyde is possible. Remain vigilant and remember, it is your responsibility to take actions which help protect yourself and your property.”
Meanwhile, the Met Office amber warning for very windy conditions locally was quickly ramped up to a full red alert as powerful gusts began causing structural damage to a number of buildings.
Heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions were predicted for more northerly areas of Argyll and Bute.
Up to 20 cm – around 7.8 inches – of snow has been forecast on higher ground, with slushy deposits at sea level.
The wind and snow warnings were set to remain in place until 6pm tonight – and persistent rain which could lead to some flooding has been forecast for tomorrow.