Storms stranded holiday motorists

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Sudden and severe snowstorms in the mountains of southern Norway were still causing problems on Tuesday as tens of thousands of people tried to head home after the Easter holidays. Many key mountain passes remained closed, others were only open to convoy driving and there were lots of accidents.

This was the scene on state highway RV7 over Hardanger at Dyranut at around 10am on Tuesday. Cars like the one at far right were buried and the road was closed. PHOTO: Statens vegvesen

Slippery conditions on roads that finally reopened Tuesday also resulted in a bus running off the road at Jølster, two collisions on the E16 between Voss and Bergen and lots of cases of cars and trucks needing to be towed out of ditches.

State highway officials had urged Easter holiday travellers to delay their travel on both Sunday and Monday, meaning that many were trying to drive home on Tuesday even though the weather was still stormy. Several mountain highways remained closed Tuesday morning including RV7 over Hardangervidda, RV13 over Vikafjell, RV15 over Strynefjell and FV53 between Årdal and Tyin.

Key east-west highways including the E16 over Filefjell, the E134 over Haukelifjell, and RV52 over Hemsedalsfjellet were open but officials warned they could close on short notice. The FV50 between Hol and Aurland opened at 8am but only for convoy driving. That can mean long delays: State broadcaster NRK reported Monday night that some motorists had to wait for as long as five hours to join an escorted convoy following snowplows.

This truck ventured over the E39 in Sogn og Fjordane Tuesday morning in challenging conditions. PHOTO: Statens vegvesen

One of the biggest problems throughout the long holiday weekend was the strong wind that also made it dangerous for trailer-trucks, bus traffic and motorhomes. Several were swept off the roads, from Dovre in the east to Haukeli in the west.

Another problem was that many motorists had followed local guidelines in their home areas that urged a shift from winter- to summer tires from April 1. Police ended up stopping motorists with summer tires from crossing the mountains: “You just can’t drive in this weather with them now,” Ronny Sleire, traffic operator for the highway department (Statens vegvesen), told NRK.

Police and highway officials also warned motorists to be sure they had enough fuel or battery capacity, along with food, drink and extra clothing in their vehicles to withstand long waits.

There was also a lot of stormy weather in Central- and Northern Norway, with warnings up over Saltfjellet in Nordland and closure of the E69 between Skarsvåg and the North Cape. Some of the winds were due to die down later on Tuesday.

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund