New storm hit as costs piled up
December 27, 2011
Damage and disruption continued to pile up after a new storm hit Norway earlier this week, even before clean-up after the weekend hurricane could begin. Strong winds and heavy rain flooded towns in the mountains and along the coast, key rail lines were blocked and all highways over the mountains were closed except for two, where motorists were only allowed to drive in convoys.
Tens of thousands of households and businesses also remained without electricity for the second day in a row, some still lacked telephone service and even the main national radio station, Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) P1, was knocked off the air in hard-hit areas. That was especially worrisome for state officials, since NRK P1 still serves as a primary source of communication in remote areas.
Several communities in the counties of Hordaland and Sogn og Fjordane were completely isolated on Tuesday, because of blocked roads and the lack of power and phone service. Emergency crews evacuated some households in the Hardanger area, because of the danger for rock- and mudslides.
The entire downtown area of Førde, the county seat of Sogn og Fjordane, was under water Tuesday morning after the rivers running through the town rose over their banks. Flooding was reported elsewhere in the county as a result of the extreme weather during the night.
Highways connecting eastern and western Norway were closed including those over Hardangervidda, Vikafjellet, Strynefjellet, Hemsedalsfjellet, Hol-Aurland and Tyin-Årdal. Road authorities were allowing restricted access on the main E16 highway over Filefjell and E134 highway over Haukeli, but only in organized convoys. Thousands keen to travel between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays were being advised to have plenty of warm clothing, food and drink in the car if attempting a mountain crossing, in case they stuck, or to postpone plans to drive over the mountains until Wednesday at the earliest.
Train travel was also badly disrupted, because of earthslides and fallen trees that blocked tracks. Nordlandsbanen was closed, Bergensbanen between Oslo and Bergen was disrupted with the stretch between Arna and Voss closed, and Trønderbanen was disrupted between Steinkjer and Trondheim, which was hit hard in the hurricane Sunday night.
Hurtigruten vessels also remained stuck in ports all along the coast, with one official of the popular shipping line saying he could never remember so many cancellations caused by bad weather. Seas were so rough and waves so high that one veteran Hurtigruten captain told NRK that “we simply have no business being out there. It’s too dangerous.” It was hoped that some sailings north and south from Trondheim could resume on Wednesday.
More trouble in the south, too
The new round of gale-force winds also caused more trouble as far south as Oslo and Østfold County and as far inland as Hedmark. In Nannestad, not far from Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen, the strong winds badly damaged a junior high school and large areas lost electricity.
Train lines were blocked as well, not least on the line between Gjøvik and Oslo after around 30 trees fell over a 60-kilometer-long stretch of track between Jaren and Gjøvik. “It will take a long time before we can reopen,” Arvid Bårdstu of state railroad Jernbaneverket told NRK.
Train lines between Jessheim and Dal and the commuter line Østfoldbanen reopened during the night but bus and tram service in Oslo was still delayed or halted because of blocks tracks and roads. Around 300 households in the Oslo area also remained without power on Tuesday afternoon.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that the costs of the storm damage will affect all Norwegians in the form of higher insurance premiums and stricter building regulations. Some estimated that insurance claims for storm damage this year will exceed NOK 1 billion.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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