State meteorologists were warning that Norway’s Arctic archipelago of Svalbard could be hit by a hurricane Friday night, with the bad weather extending into the weekend. The hurricane was predicted to slam into the island of Spitsbergen, where a controversial coal mine accused of contributing to climate change just won a government bailout.
It’s the first time in 30 years that such strong winds were expected to bear down on Svalbard. State broadcaster NRK reported that winds could hit 45 meters per second, with lots of blinding snow as well.
“The temperature is expected to stay at just a few degrees below zero (Celsius), so it will be dry snow coming in gusts,” meteorologist Jon Austrheim told NRK.
Spitsbergen is the largest island in Svalbard, where most of the small local population lives. It’s also been facing economic challenges lately, because of heavy losses at its controversial coal mine run by state-owned Store Norske. On Thursday the government also approved a new NOK 110 million crisis package for Store Norske, which suffers from low coal prices and the environmental and climate risks tied to mining in the sensitive Arctic area.
“It’s important that we maintain business activity and residents on Svalbard,” Business and Trade Minister Monica Mæland stated in a press release. The money is expected to preserve around 100 jobs, which often take precedence over climate concerns in Norway.