Severe winter storms across northern Norway have left several communities cut off with many local roads closed and ferry departures canceled. Air traffic remains operational but is subject to delays, with just one canceled service between Tromsø, Bodø and Trondheim reported.
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At the time of writing, 29 roads were closed across Finnmark in the extreme north-east of Norway alone. As a result, several settlements are totally cut off with no way for local residents to travel to regional services including hospital appointments.
Norwegian meteorologists from Yr.no reported winds ranging from strong gale force to hurricane strength across large parts of northern Norway on Wednesday.
Hurtigruten coastal voyages impacted
Due to weather and ocean conditions, the MS Lofoten sailing from Hammerfest to Kirkenes and back to Hammerfest from January 21-23 has been canceled. The journey forms part of the 12-day coastal voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes and back again.
The vessel will instead sail through sheltered waters to Alta. Affected passengers will be provided with accommodations and flights if necessary. Passengers on the MS Lofoten—the smallest and oldest ship in the Hurtigruten fleet—reported wave heights of up to 20 meters (65 feet) before its diversion, which the company later confirmed on its website.
Meanwhile, the MS Nordlys was delayed in Rørvik but should arrive in Bergen on time. Other vessels in the fleet including the MS Nordnorge have skipped port calls and suffered delays. One local in Bodø caught the ship on camera as it struggled to cope with estimated winds of 55-60 knots as it entered the city’s harbor.
Road accidents and closures
Several road accidents have been reported since the storm struck two days ago. On Lofoten’s E10 road, the driver of a local bus lost control of the vehicle in heavy winds and swerved into a ditch. One passenger with back pain was taken to the emergency room. Local police also reported that a car and trailer collided elsewhere on the same road.
In Finnmark, the 29 roads closed included all mountain passes. Grethe Turmo Hatten from the Norwegian Public Roads Administration’s office in Troms and Finnmark county told NRK that some roads are closed due to inclement weather and others due to the risk of avalanche.
Two of the roads closed include important access roads to Hammerfest, the location of the only hospital in west Finnmark. She said that ambulances can still drive with the assistance of a snowplough, but are not permitted to drive on roads with a high avalanche risk.
Another road closure that will impact tourists is the E69 between Honningsvåg and the North Cape, a popular tourist destination that is promoted as mainland Europe’s northernmost point.
The E6 highway is closed at the Kvænangsfjellet mountain pass, meaning drivers must currently take a long detour through Finland to travel between Finnmark and Troms.
The number of road closures have resulted in the isolation of several towns and villages throughout northern Norway. Perhaps the most notable of these is Honningsvåg, a popular port for cruise ships and the Hurtigruten coastal voyage due to its proximity to the North Cape. Other places cut off by the road closures include Båtsfjord, Berlevåg and Mehamn.
Officials from the Norwegian Public Roads Administration advised people in affected areas to only drive when essential: “Motorists must take it easy and drive according to conditions. Have enough fuel, something to eat and something hot to drink. You could be still for a long time.”