Avalanche danger hits new heights

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Recent sudden changes in temperatures, compounded by strong winds and storms, have raised the danger of avalanches all over Norway. Several crashed down mountainsides on Sunday, and avalanche experts urge skiers and others to be especially careful.

The mountains around Tromsø, as seen here from the University of North Norway, are posing severe avalanche risks this week. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The mountains around Tromsø, as seen here from the University of North Norway, are posing severe avalanche risks this week. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

“There are very frightening avalanche conditions out there right now,” Espen Nordahl, project leader for an avalanche competence center at the University of North Norway in Tromsø told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Sunday.

There were two avalanches in Tromsø on Sunday, first one that blocked the E8 highway in Lavangsdalen for two hours and then one that crashed down on County Road 862 at Kattfjordeidet. Farther south, in Vågå, a teeanager was caught in an avalanche but survived.

“What we experienced today (Sunday) is typical weather when avalanche danger rises – higher temperatures, more precipitation and more wind,” Nordahl said.

He was out conducting an avalanche course on the mountain known as Buren in Tromsø on Sunday afternoon. Participants saw first-hand how the avalanche danger can rise from from grade-two to grade-three very quickly. “The wind and the temperature rose, and the snow began to crack up,” Nordahl said.

Warning service Varsom.no sent out alerts of considerable avalanche danger in wides areas of Troms and Nordland counties over the next several days. In Western Norway (Vestlandet), the risk was even higher, with grade-four warnings up.

“We seldom have accidents when grade-four warnings are up, because the weather is usually bad and people stay indoors,” Kjetil Hillestad, communications director for the state agency NVE that monitors avalanche risk, told NRK. “But now the weather is improving (after the extreme weather system Tor that raged over much of western and central Norway heading into the weekend) and folks are heading outdoors again. We register many accidents set off by people themselves.”

Temperatures were predicted to remain above the freezing point for several days in Western Norway. In Northern Norway, the forecast called for temperatures slightly below zero with sunshine, perfect for skiing but dangerous as well.

“Those skiing in the mountains have to be very careful and observant,” Nordahl said.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund