UPDATED: It was another tense weekend for residents living under the mountain formation known as “Mannen” in the central Norwegian county of Møre og Romsdal. Geologists and state authorities were in their highest “red alert” stage of preparedness, after heavy rains accelerated the instability of the mountainside, which has been threatening to crash down on the valley below.
Residents were evacuated, the train line running through the valley at Rauma was halted and emergency crews were braced for a major rockslide. On Sunday, geologists and Rauma Mayor Lars Olav Hustad reported that “Mannen” had never before shifted as much as it had during the night. The rocky face of the mountain had moved 16 centimeters, setting off the red alert that signals extreme danger for a rockslide.
The sharp acceleration surprised the geologists who are monitoring the mountainside around the clock. “We are following the continual movements because of their uncertainty,” Lars Harald Blikra, chief geologist at the state agency NVE that’s in charge of waterways and geological surveys, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “The acceleration rate was so great that we wouldn’t have believed it last night.”
It slowed during the day on Sunday, down to around five to six centimeters, and on Monday the experts believed the movement had tapered off. Residents were being allowed to move home, when the risk of a rockslide was lowered from red to gold.
The danger posed by the mountainside literally breaking off, and its rock and debris crashing hundreds of meters down to the valley floor, remained high, however. Hustad said that residents themselves would need to decide whether to move home, but police wouldn’t force them to stay away.
Experts have been monitoring the mountainside for years, and last autumn, concerns were high as well. Local residents were also evacuated and the train line halted, too, but it all blew over and the media were widely blamed for the drama. Now the authorities are sounding alarms again. NRK reported on the danger all through the weekend and press briefings were held. The media isn’t being blamed now, for merely trying to report on the concerns and precautions.
Instead, it’s the heavy rains that hammered much of southern Norway during the past week that are now being blamed for the increased instability of the mountainside. Around 33 millimeters of rain fell on the mountains in the highly scenic area of Romsdal that’s often compared to Yosemite National Park in California, with its dramatic mountains and sheer granite walls rising from the valley floor. More rain will only increase the movement of the mountain, geologists fear, as they watch and wait.