Rain wreaks havoc, phones hit, too

Torrential rain continued to pound down on wide areas of southern Norway during the night and on Friday, washing out bridges, setting off mudslides and leaving some communities isolated. The Dovrebanen train line was blocked and traffic was a nightmare, just as the long three-day pinse holiday weekend was getting underway.

Traffic was already expected to be heavy out of Norway’s cities on Friday, as Norwegians planned escapes to holiday cabins along the coast and in the mountains. Flooding and mudslides made it even worse, and cars on all highways in and out of Oslo, for example, were mostly standing still Friday afternoon. State highway officials urged those who hadn’t left the city for planned holidays to just stay home and wait until congestion eased.

More and more roads were closed elsewhere in southern Norway and the Dovrebanen train line between Trondheim and Oslo was closed between Vinstra and Otta because of too much water on the tracks. It was unclear when service could resume.

To make matters worse, Telenor’s mobile telephone network broke down Friday afternoon, leaving hundreds of thousands of customers without telephone and text messaging (SMS) capabilities. In Oslo, the Get cable TV network also broke down. It was unclear whether the communications problems were also weather-related and Telenor apologized profusely on national radio, using a good old-fashioned land line.

Østerdalen cut off
Hedmark and Oppland counties were hardest hit Friday morning. State Highway 3 through the eastern valley of Østerdalen was closed after enormous quantities of rain poured down on towns like Rena, where state meteorologist Børje Johanson said the area had received “extreme amounts of rain in the course of one day.” Highway 3 goes through Rena but it was closed and several homes in Stor-Elvdal were evacuated because of flooding and threat of slides.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that police in Koppang didn’t want to take any chances and asked several residents both north and south of Koppang to move out during the night. A few checked in to the local hotel in Koppang. Highway 3 was closed between Rena and Koppang because of damage to several bridges and roadway, but it was still possible to take a detour on the east side of the Glomma River.

Motorists were told to use the main E6 highway to the west of Østerdalen, but there were problems on it north of Lillehammer as well. A mudslide near Storhovkrysset hit the highway’s northbound lane, reducing it to just one lane in both directions.

There were also early warnings along the E6 between Vinstra and Otta because of too much water on the road and poor traction. The highway eventually closed in several places as its adjacent river swelled over its banks.

Flooding all over, whether rain or shine
Several mountain highways connecting western and eastern Norway were also closed, with State Highway 16 over Filefjell closed by a slide. The road over Hardangervidda was closed between Brimnes and Eidfjord. A listing of closed roads and other traffic problems can be found here (external link, in Norwegian).

The sun was shining brightly in northern Norway, but flooding also was a problem there because of rapid snow melting caused by temperatures as high as 30C (86F).

“In eastern Norway we have flooding because of rain, in the mountains the reservoirs are spilling over because of a combination of melting snow and rain, while in northern Norway it’s only snow melt causing problems,” Heidi Bakke Stranden of state water and energy agency NVE told website yr.no, which follows weather trends. NVE had issued flood warnings on Thursday.

The rains in central and southern Norway were expected to let up later on Friday. Rain was predicted through Saturday in most areas, but not as heavy as on Thursday and Friday.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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