The extreme weather system “Petra” that poured down on Norway’s southern counties this week was breaking up as flood-weary residents headed into the weekend. While residents upstream of the hardest-hit areas could begin mopping up, those downstream may see floodwaters continue to rise.
State officials maintained flood warnings at their highest “red alert” level in Telemark County, but reduced them to “orange” in Buskerud, Aust-Agder and Vestfold counties. The rain had let up by Friday morning, but Kristen Gislefoss of the state meteorological institute said that didn’t mean it had stopped entirely.
Forecasts were brighter in the days ahead but thousands of residents were left with flooded homes, businesses, schools, day care centers and public areas. Skien and communities along the Telemark Canal were suffering the most, with water levels still so high that many gave up efforts to save their properties and simply had to wait for the flooding to recede.
“At 10 o’clock at night on Wednesday the water was 15 centimeters high along the walls outside,” Thor Ingo Gabrielsen, chef and part-owner of the Strøm restaurant in Skien, told newspaper Aftenposten. “We ran water pumps but by midnight we couldn’t keep the water away. At two in the morning we gave up and went home.” On Thursday his restaurant was under a meter of water and it was still rising on Friday.
Farther upstream, the flooding was almost up to the roof of the historic Pakkehuset along the Telemark Canal. In the large lake Tinnsjøen, water levels haven’t been so high for 100 years. Cellars of homes were flooded all over the county, while cars were completely under water in many parking garages. Insurance companies were bracing for at least NOK 100 million in claims.
Police evacuated 18 homes in Larvik while in Kongsberg, waters continued to roar through the Numedalslågen river that runs through the city. Waterways authorities believed the waters had peaked in Kongsberg, however, and were now receding.
Meteorologists forecast some sunshine and mild temperatures through the weekend and into next week, giving some areas a chance to dry up. Canoes and kayaks remained the mode of transportation in many areas including at the Nidelv campgrounds in Arendal, at Skotfoss in Telemark and elsewhere. “It’s a bit challenging,” said Johan Buflaten as he paddled to work in Rykene in Arendal. He tied up his boat to a tree along the local state highway.