Heavy rains take a heavy toll

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Residents of southern Norway were mopping up again on Wednesday after another deluge, with the promise of a few days of respite from the rain that’s fallen with alarming frequency since early June. The bad weather doesn’t just dampen spirits, but also carries a heavy cost.

One nice result of heavy rain in Oslo this week: This short-lived rainbow over some apartment buildings in the Skillebekk district. PHOTO: Views and News

More torrential rain during the night forced evacuation of two homes in Skien, Telemark County, because they were threatened by a landslide. Further north and on the eastern side of the Oslo Fjord, state highway officials were forced to close the E18 highway between Ørje and the Ramstad intersection because of flooding.

Local police also reported that strong winds had blown trees over the E-18 highway through Østfold. The highway, part of the main thoroughfare between Oslo and Stockholm, was due to remain closed all day.

The latest spell of bad weather had been predicted, with flood warnings posted, so residents and emergency crews were prepared and standing by when it hit Tuesday afternoon and evening. Kristian Gislefoss of the state meteorological institute said the low pressure system that brought the heavy rain was moving north. There even were prospects for some sunshine through Saturday, but the forecast called for more rain from late Saturday afternoon over much of southern Norway.

Rainfall costly
Insurance companies already have paid out hundreds of millions of kroner in compensation for water damage this year, reported newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). Floods and other forms of water damage have forced many families from their homes, not least those living in kjellerleiligheter, apartments built in the cellars of buildings that are fairly common in Norway. They are vulnerable to water and sewage seeping into their living areas.

Some areas have been hit especially hard, including Trøndelag, Gudbrandsdalen and Østerdalen, and higher insurance premiums are expected. Townships are also being urged to upgrade and invest in new drainage systems to handle larger amounts of precipitation, and tighten controls for new building projects, making sure that sewage systems are adequately dimensioned to handle heavy rain.

Norwegian farmers are also estimating crop losses of as much as NOK 500 million because of flooded fields, with the sum due to increase if it keeps raining. Local transport systems are also suffering, because of landslides caused by ground saturated by months of rainfall. A train derailment in Østerdalen this week was caused by sudden heavy rain that washed away the ground under the tracks.

‘Almost tropical’
The rain during this past summer has been called “almost tropical” by weather experts, different in nature because of its suddenness and intensity. It’s already been reported that the summer of 2011 has been the wettest since records started being kept in 1900, with areas like Sogn og Fjordane and Hemsedal getting more than twice, even three times the amount of rain that was considered normal. More such summers are in store.

“Most researchers believe there will be more rain in the years ahead, and more episodes of torrential rain,” meteorologist Roar Inge Hansen of Storm Weather Center told DN. “We’re going to have to start re-thinking how we build our roads and railroads.”

The frequent rain can also hurt businesses within the tourism industry and building branch, and can also cut productivity at other companies because long periods of grey and wet weather literally can dampen spirits. “It has an effect on the psyche because we’re influenced by our environment,” psychologist Cato Alexsander Bjørkli at the University of Oslo told DN. Employees, he said, can be less enthusiastic and less motivated.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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