The state highway department (Statens Vegvesen), police, the Red Cross and other emergency services were braced on Tuesday for the storm called “Mons” that was slamming into central and northern portions of Norway. Strong winds were already causing problems and they were due to be followed by heavy unseasonal rainfall all week long.
State meteorologists issued their strongest warnings for extreme weather on Monday, as expected, specifying that the areas of Namdalen, Helgeland, Saltfjellet and Sør-Salten were likely to be hit the hardest. The counties of Nord-Trøndelag and Nordland were warned of the approaching storm over the weekend, while Senja and the area around Troms was bracing for a deluge as well.
The storm from the south was packing gale-force winds and unseasonably warm temperatures, a bad combination after freezing weather and lots of snow earlier in the holiday period. Officials warned that the winds and heavy rain that was predicted would set off avalanches and flooding.
The weather went from bad to worse during the night in Helgeland but police were frustrated in their efforts to offer assistance because Telenor had “major problems” with its mobile phone coverage. “Folks aren’t able to call in to us,” Ann Line Finanger, operations leader for the Helgeland Police District told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Tuesday morning. Telenor blamed the problems on flooding at a central base station in Mosjøen but claimed they would be corrected by noon.
Several roads on Senja, farther to the north, remained closed because of avalanche danger and in Finnmark, even farther north and east, several mountain passes were also closed on Tuesday because of bad weather.
“We’ve already had so much wind and bad weather during the Christmas holiday, and even though we’re used to that here in the north, we are now mounting extra preparedness in the entire northern area,” Anne Grethe Olsen, acting regional chief for the highway department, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “That’s rather unusual.”
Olsen and her colleagues were maintaining close contact with the companies they use to clear roads, making sure they have the equipment they need and that they’re prepared for hectic days ahead. Road crews around Tromsø already have tried to clear as much snow as possible before the rains come, and ensure that sewer grates were open and clear to receive heavy amounts of precipitation. The fear is that the snow already on the ground will melt quickly in the rain, overpowering drainage capacity.
Olsen said highway crews in Finnmark, Troms, Nordland and south to Trøndelag were also making sure that roadside ditches and gutters were open and that salting was underway. Motorists were urged to seriously evaluate whether it was necessary to drive at all, and if so, to closely follow weather and avalanche danger reports (external link).
Police in Nordland were already dealing with 17 traffic accidents since late Monday afternoon, most of them blamed on bad weather and slick roads. A large truck blocked the main E6 highway at Majavatn for several hours on Monday evening.