Storm closed mountain roads

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UPDATED: Norwegian dreams of a white Christmas turned into traffic nightmares on the day before Christmas Eve for those trying to get home for the holidays. Strong winds and drifting snow forced the closure Sunday of several major roads over the mountains that connect the east and west sides of southern Norway.

The winter storm prompted highway officials to carry out warnings that they’d need to close some roads and order kolonnekjøring (driving in escorted convoys) on others.

Gale-force winds and poor visibility
Three of the key transport routes over the mountains that were restricted to convoy driving as of Sunday morning included state highway RV13 over Vikafjellet, RV7 over Hardangervidda and Europavei 134 over Haukelifjell.

One of the main highways between eastern and western Norway, the E134 over Haukelifjell, was either closed or only open to convoy-driving on Sunday. PHOTO: Statens Vegvesen

By late Sunday afternoon, RV7 was closed over Hardangervidda and wouldn’t re-open until some time on Monday at the earliest. The highway over Haukelifjell also closed at one point but later re-opened for convoy driving.

Highway 50 between Hol and Aurland was closed because of the bad weather, which severely reduced visibility. RV13 over Gaularfjell in the county of Sogn og Fjordane was also subject to periodic closure and RV52 was restricted to convoy kjøring between Borlaug and Storeskard. State highway officials warned that other highways could close at any time.

“The wind has blown up mostly to gale force in the mountains of southern Norway,” state meteorologist Kristian Gislefoss told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He said some weather stations were reporting full storm.

Warned to travel early
It was the wind more than actual snowfall that was causing problems throughout the already hard-hit counties of Rogaland and Hordaland on the west coast. Highway crews said it was difficult to keep the roads clear, especially over the open mountain plateaus like Hardanger.

December 23, known as lillejulaften (Little Christmas Eve) in Norway, is a busy day on the roads for Norwegians traveling to visit family and friends over the traditional Christmas holidays. Traffic between the Oslo area in the east and Bergen and Stavanger in the west is especially heavy. While some could take off late last week, thousands of others planned to drive on Sunday.

Highway officials had started issuing warnings on Saturday against waiting until Sunday, because of the sudden storm front that was moving in over southern Norway. Those risking the drive over the mountains were told to carry extra clothing and blankets in the passenger areas of their vehicles along with food and drink, in case they get stuck or delayed while waiting to join convoys.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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