Wild weather hit holiday rush

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More blizzards in the mountains of southern Norway and rough weather at sea and along the coast were disrupting traffic once again over the weekend, just as millions were trying to travel home or away for the holidays. Several highways were closed, ferries were cancelled and state railway NSB was halted outside Oslo after a tree blew over the tracks.

An empty E39 highway at Knivsvegen on Sunday morning: Bad weather closed many roads over the mountains during the pre-holiday weekend.  PHOTO: Statens Vegvesen webcam

An empty E39 highway at Knivsvegen on Sunday morning: Bad weather closed many roads over the mountains during the pre-holiday weekend. PHOTO: Statens Vegvesen webcam

Extremely strong winds were once again the root of the trouble, as they stirred up nine-meter waves (around 30 feet high) and threatened to flood waterfront areas. Winds weren’t just high in the mountains, but also along the entire coast of southern and western Norway.

The “proper storm,” as meteorologists called it, blew up along the Agder coast just after midnight Saturday, hitting the coasts of Vestfold and Østfold counties Sunday morning. The weather was already bad in the mountains, with State Highway 7 over the Hardanger plateau (Hardangervidda) among the many closed to most vehicles from Saturday.

Some convoy driving was later allowed, but state highway officials warned the situation could change at any time, and urged motorists using the popular route that’s among those connecting Oslo and Bergen to delay their departures until Sunday afternoon at the earliest.

Driving conditions were also hazardous over Haukelifjellet, a main route to and from Haugesund and Stavanger. The road over Valdresflya, the high mountain plateau north of Fagernes, was closed as was the highway over Vikafjellet, because of avalanche danger. Many roads were also closed in central and northern Norway, because of storms or snow- and earthslides.

Unusual lightning struck twice
Unseasonably warm temperatures also caused unusual weather and damage, with lightning and thunder hitting both Vestfold and Østfold just before the weekend began. Three persons were left homeless after lightning struck their house on the island of Hvaler, outside Fredrikstad, and a construction worker was injured while working on a roof at Revetal in Vestfold. A Norwegian Air flight from Bergen to Sandefjord was also struck by lighning on Friday but landed safely. It’s extremely unusual to have thunder and lightning in December in Norway.

Meanwhile, back along the coast of southern Norway, water levels were expected to be 60-90 centimeters higher than normal, with warnings posted for possible flooding along the waterfronts of Agder, Telemark, Buskerud, Vestfold, Østfold, Oslo and Akershus counties. The west coast south of Stad was also vulnerable to the unusually high sea levels.

In Oslo, winds were strong, blowing down trees including one that halted train travel near Ski. The sun was shining, but some ferry lines over the Oslo Fjord were halted as was fast-ferry service from Larvik and Kristiansand to Denmark.

Southern Norway wasn’t the only area hit by yet another storm, with the west coast of Sweden also braced for the worst. Rail lines between Gothenburg and Strömstad were closed from Saturday night to Sunday because of storm warnings.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund