Thousands of Norwegians have been trapped in snowdrifts across the southern part of the country, leading to widespread transport disruptions and power outages since the start of the year. State meteorologists have warned of continued heavy snow and strong winds, as municipalities scramble to manage the crisis, closing schools and deploying emergency services. The severe weather, described as “unusual” by officials, has brought life to a standstill in many areas, with more snow expected throughout the week.
In the southwestern county of Agder, the situation quickly escalated on New Year’s Eve when a severe storm blanketed the area, disrupting transport of all kinds and causing widespread power outages.
The intensity of the snowfall prompted state meteorologists to issue warnings, which were swiftly followed by the establishment of crisis management teams in the southern cities of Kristiansand and Arendal, as well as the smaller coastal community of Risør. These teams were tasked with managing the snow deluge, which by Monday afternoon, January 1, 2024, had reached nearly 70 cm (2.3 feet).
Schools in municipalities along the coast, including Kristiansand, Lillesand, Tvedestrand, Risør, and Arendal, announced closures through at least Wednesday, January 3, citing weather conditions. The Red Cross stepped in to bolster emergency response capabilities, making extra ambulances available and deploying over a dozen snowmobiles to ensure medical teams could reach those in need.
Persistent snowfall led to the shutdown of local train lines, including Arendalsbanen, portions of Sørlandsbanen, and Vestfoldbanen. The heavy snow also snarled roads, leading to an advisory for Tønsberg residents to work from home if possible.
Even the capital, Oslo, was not spared, with bus services struggling and the E6 motorway closed after a serious car accident. Officials urged motorists to equip themselves with warm clothing, food, and shovels, emphasizing the unpredictability of the snowstorm.
Oslo announced delays in garbage collection due to severe access problems for garbage trucks. The persistent snow also closed the E18 highway near Grimstad, exacerbating traffic issues as several vehicles became stuck. Meteorologists forecasted an additional 40 cm (1.3 feet) of snow by Thursday, January 4.
The situation in Grimstad, typically known as a summer holiday destination, starkly contrasted its usual ambiance, with snow reaching well above knee level.
Throughout Southern Norway, authorities advised against all but essential driving, urging residents to remain indoors.
Public transport in the Oslo area faced its own set of challenges, with Ruter, the public agency, considering a complete shutdown of bus traffic due to unmanageable snow accumulation. The tram service, too, faced early shutdowns, affecting access to popular destinations like Frognerseteren. While the coastal areas bore the brunt of the storm, even mountainous regions were not immune, with long lines forming for escorted convoys on major highways.
1 Snow shuts down much of Southern Norway – newsinenglish.no – January 2, 2024
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