|Cyclone Friedhelm. Image from Wiki Commons|
Watching its progress on an animated meteorological chart is a sinister experience. It appears to snag on the southern tip of Greenland before breaking loose, heading south of Iceland and on a collision course for Scotland. All the while the depression is deepening. Isobars crowd thickly in ever decreasing circles, a black hole, a malevolent eye. I tap the barometer glass for the third or fourth time this morning and the needle jolts abruptly. Atmospheric pressure has dropped by more than twenty millibars in a matter of hours. In the fridge a bottle of sparkling water looks fit to burst.
|Suck. Anish Kapoor's bottomless vortex.|
at Jupiter Artland
Across the country schools and offices are closing as Scotland braces itself. A steep pressure gradient means wind, great howlings of wind that rampage around this profound puncture in the atmosphere. I liken it to one of those clever donation boxes you sometimes see in museums. Roll your pennies down the shute and watch them spiral faster and faster into the vortex before being gobbled up. And then I remember Suck, a disturbing piece of landscape art by Anish Kapoor. Suck is a great funnel in the ground, but sealed behind a cage so its bottom cannot be seen, only imagined. It may go on to the centre of the Earth, or forever.
On the east coast the worst will not arrive until dusk but already hailstones drill against the windows. Outside on the street the wind slides traffic cones like striped playing pieces on a giant game board. But Friedhelm is only limbering up. By lunchtime the news is reporting a gust of 101mph on the Tay Bridge adding, almost unnecessarily, that it has been closed to all traffic. The Aonach Mor ski centre boasts 130, but the prize goes to the Cairngorm Plateau clocking in at a frightening 165mph, not quite a record but close. Colloquially the Scots are calling it Hurricane Bawbag which, if you speak any Scots, you will know is hardly a term of endearment.
Friedhelm, or Bawbag, rages well into the evening, roaring through the bare trees and punishing pedestrians with volleys of hail. By 10pm the worst is past and I pick my way home through a debris of roof slates and snapped branches. Mercifully it seems nobody has been seriously hurt, although there have been some lucky escapes from burst rivers farther south and there is temporary misery for those left without power. Next day the story is told in sequences of dramatic pictures on internet news sites: towering waves, wrecked wind turbines and the inevitable felled trees. Cyclone Friedhelm will be a storm talked about for a long while in Scotland, at least until the next one.