Huge amounts of snow in the mountains and suddenly shifting temperatures have prompted state officials to post avalanche warnings all over the country. With hundreds of thousands of Norwegians in the mountains for traditional Easter skiing holidays, they fear accidents and even fatalities.
Another mountain highway, the E39 near Hornindal in Sogn og Fjordane, was suddenly blocked on Sunday after mounds of snow crashed down on it. “It was really scary,” Marte Bjørlo, a nurse who was on her way to work at an emergency clinic in Nordfjord, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). She had to brake suddenly for what she called “a large, white wall of snow” covering the road.
Police feared more avalanches in the area while officials at the state agency in charge of monitoring the danger, NVE (Norges vassdrag og energi directorate), are uneasy and in a high state of preparedness from Finnmark and Troms in the north to Jotunheimen in the south.
“We have updated our warnings that there’s now considerable danger for natural loosening of snow on steep mountainsides,” Tommy Skårholen of NVE told NRK. “We’re seeing a lot of it all over the country.”
Asked whether there were fears that lives could be lost, he answered that “this is a situation we view with uneasiness. There are unstable conditions in large parts of the country.”
Warnings against off-piste skiing
Skiers were strongly urged to remain only on marked trails and ski slopes and refrain from off-piste skiing that can unleash an avalanche. Snowmobile drivers were being cautioned as well, while rescue crews had snowmobiles standing by for use in emergency rsponse.
Norway’s national association using dogs specially trained to sniff out avalanche victims (Norges Redningshunder) was also standing by during the entire Easter holiday week. Several chapters boosted their preparedness because of the acute danger
“Given conditions in the mountains right now, we’re afraid people can be caught in slides and avalanches,” Helene Sæterdal, who’s a team leader and instructor for the association, told NRK. “The avalanche danger is very high. When the sun comes out, it’s important folks say away from steep mountainsides.”