Floodwaters crest, ‘the worst is over’

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Water levels in some of Norway’s largest lakes and rivers continued to rise during the weekend but by Monday morning, officials at waterways directorate NVE (Norges vassdrags- og energidirektorat) were saying the worst was over. Now they expect the floodwaters that have been pouring into lakes like Mjøsa and Øyeren to start receding.

“There is still a lot of water but the flooding is definitely receding,” Elin Langsholt, a hydrologist at NVE, told news bureau NTB. “In the Drammens River, it’s already started to recede.”

Danger diminished
A rapid rise in temperatures after a long and cold spring vastly accelerated snow and ice melting just over a week ago, leading to a sudden gush of water in creeks and rivers. Heavy rain added to the amount of water flowing through southern Norway, and the creeks, rivers and even a few dams couldn’t contain it.

That led to severe flooding in the valleys of Gudbrandsdalen and Østerdalen, among others, along with landslides that caused major damage to property, roads and rail lines, and forced the evacuation of several hundred persons last week. The flood was moving south just before the weekend, with more damage expected in the areas east, west and south of Oslo.

Now that danger is over, according to the officials at NVE, with one hydrologist telling Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Monday morning that water levels in Øyeren, a large lake east of Oslo that takes in water from the already-flooded Glomma River, were starting to fall.

Communities downstream of the flooded Glomma, like Fetsund and Lillestrøm, feared the worst on Friday but flood warnings were downgraded on Sunday. Residents of communities along the Drammens River west of Oslo, which takes in water from the Randsfjord and Tyrifjord, were also relaxing a bit on Monday.

New warning system
NVE, meanwhile, announced it planned to introduce a new system for flood warnings. Instead of categorizing major floods as, for example, a “50-year flood” (meaning the type that occurs on average of only once in 50 years) or a “10-year flood,” NVE will start using a color system, with “red” as the most severe flood warning, “orange” as less severe and “yellow” as moderate.

Inger Karin Engen, another hydrologist at NVE, said she and her colleagues have registered that most people have had a hard time understanding the potential impact of a “50-year flood,” not least since the flooding that occurred last week, and was initially categorized as such, had also occurred just 18 years ago and again, to a lesser degree, two years ago.

“We would rather now have a color-scale system that tells folks what the danger levels are,” Engen told NRK on Monday. “It will be easier to understand.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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