UPDATED: A heavy snowfall that created a huge traffic jam on the E18 highway near Tvedestrand in Southern Norway left an estimated 2,500 cars and their occupants stranded Tuesday afternoon and well into the night. Several electric cars ran out of battery power while others ran out of fuel, after sitting still for as long as 10 hours.
Police, highway authorities and the Red Cross managed to evacuate those left freezing in the dark and cold late Tuesday night. Emergency crews also worked to remove snow from both the north- and south-bound lanes of the E18 but it wasn’t easy, especially with so many cars already stuck in the snowdrifts and blocking access for the plows. Large trucks that had slid out of control blocked both lanes in some areas.
“We called in lots of resources to solve this demanding situation,” the police chief in Agder, Kjerstin Askholt, told state broadcaster NRK. “This has to be solved in cooperation with Statens vegvesen (the state roads authority).”
Askholt also called for help from the local civil defense force, volunteer organizations and local government officials. Smaller ATV vehicles and snowmobiles were being equipped with chains to maneuver between all the stranded cars and trucks, and at least help motorists charge batteries and get car heaters working again. Many were also supplied with warm drinks, food and blankets until trucks blocking the motorway could finally be towed away and traffic started moving again at around 5am Wednesday.
Several car owners reported sitting still for more than five hours. Others claimed they’ll never use electric cars in snowstorms again, because of the risk of batteries running down.
“We simply can’t allow this to happen again,” John Repstad, operations leader for the Agder Police District, told NRK Wednesday morning. He and others were in crisis meetings to boost preparedness on Wednesday, as weather forecasts were posted for up to 30 more centimeters of snow through Thursday.