Flash floods sweep through valleys

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UPDATED: Torrential rains and a freak rise in temperatures that rapidly melted snow in Western Norway led to flash flooding during the weekend, forcing evacuations and causing widespread damage in many mountain and valley areas. One barn was swept off its foundation and moved 50 meters, with 13 goats inside.

Skjåk is one of the small communities now flooded. It is normally one of Norway’a driest places. PHOTO: Politiet

Several local mayors were describing “catastrophic” damage in their areas of both western and central Norway. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported major emergency operations on Sunday in Luster, Voss and other parts of Western Norway. Rescue crews were helping free both people and animals from structures under threat, with rubber rowboats taking part in evacuation efforts.

‘Incredible’
They tried to free, for example, farmer Torkjell Sollesnes’ goats that were in his barn in the valley of Fortunsdalen when it was torn from its foundation, spun 180 degrees around and landed 50 meters away. The only way to reach them was by boat over treacherous waters cascading over the property. The unusual rescue effort was successful, with all 13 goats saved from drowning.

The flood, described as “incredible” by local residents, came suddenly during the night, isolating many homes and small communities by midday Sunday. Roads and bridges were closed all over the counties of Hordaland, Sogn og Fjordane and Oppland after temperatures suddenly rose, melting recent snowfalls, while water poured from the sky.

“What we’re seeing here is very unusual,” state meteorologist Bente Wahl told NRK. “It has been extraordinarily warm all week, so the snow that fell earlier in October has melted.” Thermometers hit 25.5C at Tafjord in Møre og Romsdal at 3am Sunday. Even at high elevations, temperatures were logged at more than 10C.

See NRK’s video from the situation in the historic mountain town of Lom here.

Many communities launched into crisis mode, as rivers flowed over their banks. Several bridges like Marlo Bru in Skjåk were closed for fear  they’d collapse at any moment, while power failures and closed roads added to the isloation. NRK reported that Skjåk seemed hit the hardest, as floodwaters continued to rise and more rain was expected throughout the afternoon and evening.

Farmers were facing massive clean-up efforts plus another new challenge: Floodwaters swept away or ruined the plastic-wrapped balls of feed for their livestock that already had been difficult to obtain following the summer drought. Several thus needed emergency shipments of more feed to get them through the winter.

“This is terribly difficult,” Andreas Wiese of the farmers’ organization Bondelaget in Luster told NRK. “In a year when we started with a drought and had very little feed to harvest, now the little feed we’ve managed to obtain has been lost. This is dramatic for many of us.”

Floodwaters were receding on Monday. “Slowly but surely we’re riding out the storm,” Brigt Samdal, regional chief for state waterways agency NVE, told NRK. “Water levels in all rivers are on their way down.” Many households remained without power Monday morning.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund