For the first time ever, state authorities raised the danger for avalanches to “extreme” in wide areas of Nordland County. Warnings were up all over northern Norway for people to stay away from all steep areas through the weekend.
“Stay home” was the message being sent out by police on Friday after Norway’s state agency in charge og monitoring flood and slide danger (Norges vassdrags- og energidirektorat, NVE) raised the danger level to Category 5, which has never before been used.
“Category 5 is for a very seldom and extreme situation,” Rune Engeset of NVE told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Friday afternoon. “We expect that any avalanche can travel much father and longer than ever before. We also need to brace for avalanches in areas where they’ve never occurred before.”
A combination of rising temperatures, the winter’s heavy snowfall and rain in both Trøndelag and Nordland has made the snowpack highly unpredictable. “Everyone needs to avoid steep areas and follow instructions from highway authorities, the police and local governments,” NVE stated on its website on Friday.
Danger highest in Helgeland
With more rain expected during the weekend, Helgeland is especially vulnerable to avalanches because of highly unstable snowpack.
Avalanche danger was also high farther north in Troms County, where several occurred during the night. The main E6 highway was closed at Gratangen after heavy snow covered a section of as much as 400 meters.
Authorities were worried about more such incidents, and that residents might not take the warnings seriously. Cars and trucks backed up on roads closed by a slide can, however, be like sitting ducks for other slides because of all the unstable snow.
“There are 21 municipalities affected by all this in Nordland alone and we’re in a critical situation,” Hill-Marta Solberg, county governor in Nordland, told NRK. Emergency meetings were being held Friday between local officials, the police NVE and even the military to boost preparedness. Heavy rain was in the forecast from Saltfjellet in northern Nordland and south to Trøndelag, that could loosen the weight of more snow and ice.