Extreme weather stuns Vestlandet

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UPDATED: Winter came early over the weekend, with stormy weather dumping up to 20 centimeters of snow in some areas of the mountains while also wreaking havoc over wide areas of Vestlandet (Western Norway). Strong winds knocked down trees and power lines, leaving thousands without power, while others were evacuated after heavy rain led to more flooding and landslides.

This was the scene Monday morning near Sognefjellshytta on county road FV55 over the mountains, which had to close on Sunday. Road crews cleared snow Monday, like here in the direction towards Lom, but motorists were being warned to drop any trips without snow tires on their vehicles. PHOTO: Statens vegvesen/ web camera

It was another wild weekend, and many roads remained closed Monday morning. Among them were RV52 over Hemsedalsfjellet and 10 county roads from Lærdal and Geiranger to Stryn. The popular FV63 better known as Trollstigen was also abruptly closed because of the weather, disappointing autumn tourists.

The biggest problem were the powerful wind gusts that also swept over many areas where skies were blue and the sun was shining, including the Oslo area. The southern cities of Kristiansand and Arendal were hit hard, with local utility companies scrambling to restore electricity after countless trees fell over power lines.

In Hardanger, fruit farmers were in despair afte the winds knocked down as many as 180 apple trees on one farm alone at Ullensvang. Newspaper Aftenposten reported how local residents are accustomed to strong winds and stormy weather, but Sunday’s gales came as an unwelcome surprise even though state meteorologists had posted special warnings.

Apple harvest and animals lost, ferries cancelled
“We had been looking forward to a good apple harvest this fall,” farmer Rannveig Nakkerud told local newspaper BT. Now she’s faced with heavy losses even though her trees were secured with wires to prevent them from blowing ever in the event of a storm. The relentless gusts on Sunday simply overpowered all precautions taken.

Other farmers were also hit hard farther north. Rains were so heavy in Surnadal, between Trondheim and Kristiansund, that the Surna River flooded over its banks. That created a tragedy for farmers who had more than 100 grazing sheep and cattle along the river bank. All are believed to have been swept away in the flood waters and drowned.

The Jølster area of the mountains, which suffered rain-induced fatal landslides just this past summer, were hit by more powerful slides that caused more damage. No injuries or deaths were reported this time, but residents are jittery after all the weather-induced trauma of recent months. Farther north in Olden and Loen, more than 20 residents were evacuated because of threatened slides.

More snow expected
The weather was so bad in the coastal city of Ålesund that even the sturdy coastal shipping line Hurtigruten had to sail on by because it was too dangerous to try to dock. More than 3,400 passengers were stranded when both Fjordline and Color Line had to cancel all ferries between Kristiansand and Hirtshals in Denmark.

Heavy rain also poured down in Bergen, which was drenched by 75 millimeters from Saturday to Sunday night. Power failures in Agder, southern Norway, halted the main train line between Oslo, Kristiansand and Stavanger (Sørlandsbanen) when there was no electricity around Vegårshei.

Perhaps the biggest surprise, especially for Norwegians out on traditional autumn weekend hikes in the mountains, came with the early blizzards in the mountains that closed most all mountain passes between western and eastern Norway. County road FV 55 over Sognefjellet was closed and driving was hazardous on state highway RV 7 over Hardangervidda.

More snow was expected in the mountains through the week, according to the state meteorological institute.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund