Cold snap halted trains in their tracks

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After months of unseasonably warm temperatures, the weather finally got cold this week all over Norway. Thermometers sunk so low Wednesday morning that they literally cracked railroad tracks at three places along the main commuter line south of Oslo, forcing passengers to stand in long lines for alternative bus and taxi service on the coldest day of the year.

Thermometers were showing a nippy minus-14C at the train station in Ski, southeast of Oslo, where hundreds of train passengers were stranded. “We have three rail-breaks between Kolbotn and Ski,” Ragnhild Aagesen of the state railroad agency Jernbaneverket told state broadcaster NRK. “We’ve had a full stop in all traffic.”

It was also difficult to assemble all the buses needed as an alternative for commuters. Aagesen blamed the sudden dive in temperatures.

Double-digit minus
“When it gets so cold, the rails contract and we can get cracks that have to be welded back together,” Aagesen said. It was difficult to say when full service would resume, but trains began running at around 9am between Kolbotn and Oslo’s central station (OsloS).

It was minus-18C at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen and minus-14C in downtown Oslo Wednesday morning. Thermometers were also showing double-digit sub-freezing degrees from north to south. State broadcaster NRK reported that it was minus-24C in the historic mining town of Røros, and the railway line serving it was halted as well between Hamar and Løten, but that was because of a train stalled on the tracks.

State meteorologists warned that it would becoldest in Northern Norway, where winds from Siberia were bearing down on the northernmost county of Finnmark. Temperatures were already down in the mid-minus-20s and likely to fall farther, especially on Finnmarksvidda (the mountain plateau) around Kautokeino, where predictions were for temperatures in the minus-40s.

Winter nonetheless welcome
Children were still playing outdoors in the northern city of Alta and many Norwegians were welcoming the cold winter weather after a worrisome warm spell. There was little if any snow during Christmas and the site of green grass and in December and early January was unsettling.

Meteorologists could confirm this week that despite last year’s chilly and rainy summer, temperatures on average were 1.8 degrees higher on average in Norway in 2015. That made it the third-warmest year on record and it was also very wet.

“High temperatures often come along with lots of precipitation,” Bente Wahl of the state meteorological institute told newspaper Aftenposten on Wednesday. She said 2015 was also the third-wettest year since 1900, with 25 percent more rainfall than normal.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund