Finnmark clobbered by winter storm

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Nearly 30 roads were closed in Norway’s northernmost county of Finnmark on Friday and police were urging residents against trying to drive anywhere. Strong winds, poor visibility, landslides and extremely slippery conditions made travel hazardous.

Even the police themselves were reluctant to attempt any. “We’re letting the cars stay parked when conditions call for it,” Bjørn Gunnar Johnsen, operations leader for the Finnmark Police District told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

Avalanche warnings
Hurricane conditions at sea and at various areas along the coast led to cars getting stuck in snow drifts that suddenly built up, especially in eastern Finnmark and around the Varanger peninsula. There were problems further west in Hammerfest, too, though, where the winds even blew down streetlights and ripped metal siding off a local sports hall that had to be closed.

“The snowplow crews have more than enough to do,” Johnsen said, as they responded to calls for help. Not only did they try to keep some roads open but they also needed to rescue motorists caught in the stormy weather,

Warnings were also up for avalanches and landslides. Tons of heavy snow thundered down on County Road 354 between Jakobsnes and Elvenes outside Kirkenes, and emergency crews had to be sent out to rescue stranded motorists. No injuries were reported.

More snow was expected on Friday. “We’ve had a rise in temperatures, the wind is a problem and that increases the danger of avalanches,” Johnsen warned.

Cancelled flights and ferries
He said it had been a “very hectic night” and the far northeastern city of Vardø was all but cut off after the E75 highway was closed between Vadsø and Vardø. Many other remote communities were isolated by the bad weather and road closures. Most all air traffic within Troms and Finnmark was grounded and ferries were cancelled. Widerøe had to cancel all flights east of Hammerfest, while SAS cancelled a flight from Alta to Tromsø. Norwegian Air flights from southern Norway to northern destinations were due to run as scheduled.

Vessels sailing in the famed Hurtigruten line along the coast were also affected, with the MS Spitsbergen opting to lie still at sea between Skjervøy and Øksfjord until the winds died down. The MS Kong Harald had to wait to berth at Honningsvåg because of the wind and MS Lofoten felt forced to sail past Vadsø without making its scheduled stop because of hurricane conditions. It was proceeding to Kirkenes, where the port was slightly more shielded from the winds.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund