Oslo got off easy, but wide areas of Southern Norway struggled over the weekend to deal with the first major snowstorm of the season. The snow and strong winds snarled traffic, sparked numerous accidents and left thousands of households without electricity on Sunday.
State meteorologists had duly issued warnings that as many as 40 centimeters of snow would fall, also in low-lying coastal areas, as temperatures fell and winds rose. As it turned out, the Norwegian capital wasn’t hit as hard as expected but nearby Drammen, for example, went from autumn to full winter overnight, with lots of heavy snow and windchill factors in the minus double-digits.
The Telemark and Agder counties were among areas hit the hardest. On Sunday, emergency crews were out trying to restore power to initially tens of thousands of households that lost power as early as Saturday after the wind and heavy snow knocked down power lines. “We have ordered a helicopter that will survey the lines throughout the day,” Hanne Liv Refsnes of Agder Energi told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
Around 10,000 households remained without power at midday Sunday, especially in the Froland area. Refsnes said she’d had reports that as much as a meter of snow fell on Vegårshei during the night.
At the border crossing between Sweden and Norway in Svinesund, state highway authorities halted roughly a third of all trucks entering the country because they had poor tires or lacked chains needed on snowy roads. The preventive measure didn’t keep heavy trucks already in the country without winter tires from skidding off and blocking highways in many areas, also on the multi-lane E18 highway running along Norway’s southern coast.
Traffic was pretty much standing still on the E18 through Vestfold and Telemark counties for several hours on Saturday. “It was like driving over the mountains,” reported NRK journlaist Anne Berit Larsen as she tried to drive between Larvik and Langangen. “Nothing has been plowed here.” Several other motorists also reported a lack of snowplows on the E18 from Oslo all the way beyond Porsgrunn. There also were reports of skidding vehicles, trucks blocking the roads and collisions on the E134 highway through the mountains of Telemark and in Oppland, Buskerud and Hedmark.
Police car had problems, too
Police in some cases stopped cars for driving without snow tires, and either confiscated their drivers’ licenses or issued fines. One police car also skidded off a road in Sarpsborg and was found to be equipped only with summer tires. The local station chief claimed the incident would also have consequences for those involved. “Some of our cars have had their tires changed, others haven’t,” Kjetil Lunde of the Sarpsborg Police told NRK. “Our routines are pretty good, but apparently not good enough.”
It was still snowing in many areas on Sunday, but the sun was peeping through the flurries in Oslo. Meteorologists predicted the snow would remain on the ground through the week because temperatures were due to stay well below the freezing point. That bode well for ski resorts eager to open, and many cross-country trails were already groomed and ready in areas from Trysil to Norefjell.