A high state of preparedness was being credited for Norway’s ability to ride out the fury of the latest extreme weather system, dubbed Tor, to hit the country last weekend. There was far less damage than expected and no major injuries, but emergency communications were severely challenged.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported this week that warnings and mass communication from state and local authorities, conventional and social media and even locally based embassies helped Norwegians brace for the storm that hit the West Coast the hardest on Friday and Saturday. A vast majority heeded the warnings and followed advice to secure loose objects, move their vehicles and generally stay indoors while the storm raged with record-strong winds.
Insurer sending flowers to meteorologists
Insurance companies were thus able to report far fewer damage claims than expected after the storm died down. “We’re sending flowers to the state Meteorological Institute,” Øystein Thoresen, information director at Norwegian insurance firm Gjensidige, told DN. “They were very early out with their warnings.”
Thoresen said damage claims were mostly relatively small, and nothing like those filed after hurricane Dagmar, for example, or the extreme storm dubbed Berit in 2011. Dagmar resulted in damage claims of NOK 1.4 billion, while Berit caused damage worth NOK 450 million.
“When the warnings first came last week, there was talk this would be another Dagmar,” Thoresen told DN. “But Tor was nothing like that.”
Warning systems have improved enormously in recent years, not least because of technology that allows mass distribution of text messages and email directly to insurance customers. Gjensidige was able to send around 90,000 text warnings to its policy holders, after receiving early warnings from the state meteorologists and agencies like NVE. County officials also issued warnings, as did the police.
‘Better than expected’
Sigmund Clementz, information director at insurance firm If, also reported fewer claims and lauded public officials for their warnings. “We were afraid Tor would really hammer Norway,” Clementz told DN, “but even though instruments burst all the scales and the wind set new records, it all went much better than expected.”
If received around 225 claims after the storm died down, but expected more to tick in during the week as businesses and homeowners surveyed damage. The numbers, though, were lower than anticipated.
Emergency network failed first big test
The extreme weather did knock out 46 base stations for telecommunications, however, and a new system set up by the state didn’t meet its first test. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that Norway’s new so-called nødnett (emergency network) failed in various places around the country.
Tor hit with such force on Friday that it tore off rooftops, forced closure of roads and bridges, cancelled many flights and left tens of thousands of homes without power or telephone connection. “Tor hit areas that together have around 1,200 base station in the emergency network,” Dagfinn Sjøvik, leader of technical management for the state directorate for emergency communication. “At the worst point, we had 46 base stations down and around 90 running on battery. Monday morning, 13 base stations were still down.”
Sjøvik said he and his colleagues are never satisfied when base stations fail. “But it was an extreme situation with weather of such force, and we have power failures that make the emergency network vulnerable,” he told NRK. “We will sum up the situation now, after the storm, so I don’t want to draw any conclusions until we have completed our analysis.”