Extreme weather that hammered central and southern Norway during the holiday weekend was finally letting up Tuesday morning, but the calamities it caused were far from over. Flooding, blocked roads, stranded trains and dangerous shorelines were still creating major challenges for hard-pressed emergency response crews.
Among the most pressing was the evacuation of a train on the Dovrebanen line that was on its way from Dombås to Drammen when it ran into one of the thousands of trees knocked down by hurricane-force winds. There were no injuries but the accident occurred on a remote stretch of track north of Tretten in the valley of Gudbrandsdalen. Some passengers began walking along snow-covered tracks, struggling to carry luggage with them as they headed for the nearest road. The train line was closed between Hunderfossen and Ringebu, reported officials at state railway NSB.
Meanwhile, thousands of households and businesses remained without electricity along the West Coast, mostly in Rogaland and Hordaland counties, after winds clocked at 170 kilometers an hour knocked down power lines or trees that crashed over them. As many as 70,000 were without power during the night after the winds hit hurricane strength at Elvershøi in the mountains at Røldalsfjellet and at Eigerøy near Egersund on Norway’s southwest coast. Crews were scrambling to restore power to affected areas Tuesday morning.
Four municipalities in and around the popular Lofoten area were also without mobile phone service, including Flakstad, Moskenes, Værøy and Røst. They lost mobile phone coverage Sunday afternoon after an undersea cable was torn by all the wave action, and it may take several days to get it repaired.
Extremely stormy seas
Waves as high as 25 meters crashed into the coastline, forcing police to close roads and beach areas that attracted gawkers unaware of the danger involved as they marveled at the sight of extremely stormy seas. Hurricane conditions were also reported at Sotra, with winds measured at 45 meters per second.
In the North Sea, Statoil reduced crews on board oil platforms like the Snorre B because of the extreme weather. Waves crashed relentlessly into offshore installations, measured at 20 meters (more than 60 feet) high and gale-force winds. “We have limits regarding access to lifeboats at certain wave heights, so therefore had to reduce staff,” Statoil spokesman Ola Anders Skauby told NRK. He noted, though, that “this storm was forecast long in advance, so we were prepared.”
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that the winds were still strong enough early Tuesday morning to knock down an overhead traffic sign that extended over the four-lane E18 highway at Vinterbro in Akershus, south of Oslo. That forced closure of the main traffic artery into Oslo.
The extreme weather system dubbed Urd spoiled many traditional family gatherings on Monday, called “Second Christmas Day” in Norway and also an official holiday. State highway officials took the unusual step on Sunday and Monday of flatly warning motorists to stay home and not attempt any driving that wasn’t absolutely neessary. State meteorologists had duly forecast and warned about the probable consequences of such a storm, though, so most Norwegians were prepared for it. Police credited that for helping to avert serious injuries or fatalities.
In some areas, state meteorologists said the weather was even worse than they’d predicted, while authorities said Southern Norway rode out the storm better than they’d expected. Police in Hordaland logged 110 calls for help during the night but mostly regarding toppled trees, and no personal injuries. Winds were dying down and waves were lower Tuesday morning, prompting meterologists to declare the storm was over, but that weather conditions remained highly variable and winds were still strong.
Problems also remained. As of Tuesday morning, major highways over the mountains were still closed including the E6 over Dovrefjell, E6 over Saltfjellet, RV13 over Vikafjellet, RV7 over Hardangervidda and RV9 over Haukeli. Only escorted convoys of cars were allowed on the E16 over Filefjell and RV52 over Hemsedalsfjellet.
Several airports remained closed, ferries were halted and several flights between Oslo and Bergen were cancelled. The coastal shipping line Hurtigruten had already cancelled several sailings between Bergen and Trondheim, but they were expected to resume normal schedules on Tuesday.