Flood damage rises, more rain falling

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It was raining again in Oslo Monday morning, after weekend downpours that flooded tunnels and blocked roads, halted trains and trams and even ruined exhibits and artifacts at the outdoor Norwegian Folk Museum. Flood damage estimates climbed into the “hundreds of millions” and insurance companies themselves were flooded with claims.

Cars caught in tunnels and underpasses were mostly submerged, while the closure of tunnels like Granfoss on Oslo’s west side created enormous traffic jams that left cars standing still for hours on end Saturday afternoon. At one point, both the main E18 and E6 highways into Oslo were closed by flooding at areas like Framnes and south of Lambertseter. Cellars were also flooded in many areas of Oslo and Buskerud, Akershus and Østfold counties, with Asker and Bærum hit the hardest.

There were so many calls for help that the central switchboard for the Oslo Fire and Emergency Department issued a statement already on early Saturday afternoon stating that “We have water leakage all over the Oslo area. Our capacity (to respond) is beyond the bursting point. Call your insurance company.”

Thousands did, and by Sunday the damage estimates were rising into the hundreds of millions of Norwegian kroner. “We’ve had 900 damage reports so far, and there will be many more,” Sigmund Clementz of insurance firm If told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Sunday morning. He said so many people were calling in that “we couldn’t take are of everyone,” so the calls were likely to keep coming this week. “I also think there will be many people getting a bad surprise when they come home from summer holidays this weekend,” Clementz said.

For photos of the flooding, traffic chaos and damage assembled by Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) click here (external link).

Most of those calling in, including 1,400 customers to insurance firm Gjensidige, were from Asker and Bærum, where the rain was heaviest and the flood damage the worst. Most of the damage involved flooded cellars and garages, with car motors damaged as well. Several businesses and stores also were flooded, while damage was all but heartbreaking at the Norwegian Folk Museum on Bygdøy in Oslo.

Bygdøy, also home to the Viking Ships, Kon-Tiki, Maritime and Holocaust museums,  caught the worst of the deluge as it moved up along the Oslo Fjord. Meteorologists reported that 68.6 millimeters of rain poured down on Bygdøy in a 24-hour period during the weekend, breaking all records. Volunteers and civil defense crews rushed to the Norsk Folkemuseum to help pump water out of cellars that housed exhibits and inventories of “irreplaceable items” that suddenly were under as many as 70 centimeters of water.

“Water was running into all three cellars, quite a lot of water,” Jon Berntsen, chief of the civil defense unit (Sivilforsvaret) told NRK. “It has unfortunately ruined several exhibits.” Crews planned to work through the night to keep pumping out water “and saving what we can save.”

It wasn’t only rain that poured down over Asker, Bærum and Oslo. Several witnesses reported seeing funnels of rain resembling tornados that the Norwegians call skypumpene, which are like a fire hose pouring water directly down from the skies. They’ve occurred along Norway’s southern coast on previous occasions, but are very seldom in the Oslo area.

“I was out on the veranda and there were some powerful lightning bolts,” Marte Oraug Skogtrø, who lives in the Torshov area of Oslo, told NRK. Then she saw the funnel: “I thought, ‘wow, what in the world is that'” she said, and started filming it. She said it lasted around two to three minutes.

Another one was caught on film by a man on the island of Lindøya, just across the waterfront of downtown Oslo. It sent water pouring directly into the fjord towards the capital’s east side, at the entrance to Bunnfjorden, on the east side of the Nesodden peninsula.

For Skogtrø’s video and photos gathered by NRK, click here (external link).

State meteorologist Kristian Gislefoss said the skypumper occur only over water and can “live” for up to 15 minutes. “They can have a windspeed of 30 meters per second and can suck up fish,” Gislefoss told NRK. “I wouldn’t recommend anyone sailing into one of them, but they’re not dangerous to observe from a distance.” He said they mostly occur when the air near the ground or water is mild and the air high above is very cold.

More rain was forecast throughout the week, with new flood warnings issued early in the week for both flooding and landslides along the West Coast, from Kristiansand up through Stavanger, Haugesund, Bergen and north to to Måløy. The counties of Rogaland, Hordaland and Sogn og Fjordane, which have all been battered by rain all summer, were braced for more downpours, with Sogn og Fjordane and Hordaland warned to expect up to 100 millimeters of rain between Sunday night and Tuesday morning.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund