Weekend drenched by rough weather

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“Summer in Norway!” exclaimed a frustrated woman as she stormed into a roadside café at Sokna in Buskerud County on Sunday, soaking wet after a mere run in pouring rain from her car in the parking lot. Her discomfort was minor compared to those stuck for hours in Bergen’s famous funicular Fløibanen when it was hit by lightning on Sunday, or the thousands taking part in long-awaited outdoor festivals and concerts over the weekend that were drenched by heavy rain.

The weather was absolutely awful in many parts of the country during the weekend, as unstable weather fronts kept moving about and spoiling the outdoor arrangements that are so popular all over Norway at this time of year. There were some periods of sunshine, even up in the mountains where forecasts had been dismal, but much of southern Norway saw anything but summery weather and northern Norway had some rough spells, too.

Passengers trapped on Fløibanen
The situation was probably most dramatic for the dozens of passengers, many of them tourists, who were stuck for as long as two hours inside the two cars on Bergen’s popular Fløibanen funicular. The line was hit by lightning around 1:15pm on Sunday, knocking the cars that climb one of Bergen’s steep hills out of service.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that those inside the cars were first told they’d be delayed around 10 minutes. They ended up having to wait between 90 minutes and two hours before they were escorted out of the funicular cars and led up steep stairs adjacent to the tracks, to the closest station on the line. From there they were offered taxi service to wherever they needed to go.

For photos, see NRK’s coverage here (external link, in Norwegian).

Fløibanen director Trond Amland claimed the evacuation went well and that the abrupt stoppage proved safety measures went into effect. “We have procedures we follow when something happens and passenger safety always comes first,” he told NRK. He said technicians scrambled to localize the damage done by the lightning. “We knew the lightning had struck, but we didn’t know where or what went wrong.”

He claimed the evacuation went well, not least since the bad weather meant there were far fewer passengers on board the funicular that normal. One passenger, Lene Kristine Holstangen, told NRK a somewhat different story, saying that passengers started getting restless as time went by, then worried, as they feared missing other appointments or even flights out of Bergen, and a few passengers panicked. “Some sat shaking and looked scared,” Holstangen said. “It was no fun. I’m a bit scared of heights myself.”

The problem was eventually fixed and Fløibanen started running again around 6pm, nearly five hours after it broke down.

Traffic problems, fires and soaked audiences
Meanwhile, the bad weather also caused major traffic problems in Vestfold County, southwest of Oslo, because of flooding in Larvik and a nearby mudslide. In Sandefjord, fire broke out in a house that was hit by lightning, which also struck a local day care center and a holiday home farther south at Kragerø in Telemark County.

In Oslo, arguably the biggest concert weekend of the year turned into an extremely wet experience for the tens of thousands holding tickets for such popular outdoor events as the Øyafestivalen on the grounds of the Middle Ages Park in Gamlebyen, the VG-lista Topp 20 concerts on the City Hall Plaza (Rådhusplassen), a Katie Melua concert on the grounds of the Akershus Fortress and Castle, and the large Kollenfestivalen at the Holmenkollen Ski Jump. The latter was a new music festival this year, featuring both Norwegian and international performers including Rihanna, Kiss, Marit Larsen, Billy Idol and Turbonegro.

It attracted around 20,000 who braved pouring rain and chilly temperatures, and then, on Friday, lost sight of the various stages set up because of a heavy fog that settled over the Holmenkollen hillside above Oslo. “We had to basically just follow the sound, because it was difficult to see the stage through the fog,” Josefine Svenkerud told newspaper Aftenposten.

“It’s not exactly a super festival when the weather is so bad,” another concert-goer, Alexander Murmo, told Aftenposten. “But it shouldn’t be so surprising. The ski jumping has been cancelled because of fog.”

Others didn’t seem to mind, including a group of friends who all sported bright yellow rain hats. “We’re from northern Norway, so the weather is no problem” one of them, Jørgen Hilmarsen, told Aftenposten.

The forecast for the next few days was a bit better, with sun predicted over much of Norway on Tuesday and Wednesday, but more rain next weekend.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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