Flood warnings raised to ‘red-alert’

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So much water is roaring through rivers in Telemark and Buskerud counties that authorities have posted red-alert warnings in scores of communities. Meanwhile, a new extreme weather system dubbed ‘Petra’ was bearing down on southeastern Norway and expected to dump even more rain on Thursday.

Another round of torrential rain is the last thing authorities need right now, as they already were closing roads, pumping out flooded cellars and issuing more evacuation orders after Tuesday’s heavy rain. The counties of Aust-Agder, Buskerud and Telemark counties are hardest hit already, but warnings were issued for Vest-Agder, Vestfold, Oppland, Oslo, Akershus and Østfold as well.

The situation was most critical Wednesday morning in Notodden and Kongsberg, where the Numedalslågen river was roaring at a rate of 700 cubic meters per second. There were some signs the water level was slowly starting to sink, but Norwegian Broadasting (NRK) reported that local authorities were evaluating the situation minute by minute.

For live video from NRK of the water rushing through the historic city of Kongsberg, click here, and then click on the red arrow (external link, in Norwegian).

The important E134 highway that runs through Kongsberg (seen in the background of NRK’s video, as it crosses the river on a bridge in the heart of town) reopened after being closed by flooding during the night. Officials warned it may close again at a moment’s notice, though, and the highway has also been blocked in other areas as it crosses from eastern to western Norway through Buskerud and Telemark. It remained closed between Notodden and Seljord Wednesday morning.

Several other roads were also closed by flooding including county highways FV88 at Bevergrenda, FV96 in Lurdalen, FV133 in Sigdal and FV64 at Bingen in Øver Eiker. Crisis teams at the state highway department (Statens vegvesen) were monitoring road conditions constantly.

In nearby Notodden, the airport remained closed on Wednesday and residents were reporting flooded gardens and cellars. Warnings were also posted downstream, in the coastal cities of Larvik and Drammen, where major thoroughfares were also closed on Tuesday afternoon. Several schools were closed and earthslide warnings were also posted in many local communities because of the enormous quantities of rain that fell on Tuesday.

With more forecast for Thursday, as the extreme weather system called “Petra” rolls in, authorities were bracing for the worst. Telemark newspaper Varden reported that the water level in the large lake called Tinnsjøen was the highest in more than 100 years. The red-alert warnings posted for the Nemedalslågen river came after its levels hit levels generally seen only once every 50 years.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund