Blizzard on Svalbard: Evacuations and closed schools
Blizzard and avalanche risk make over 100 persons are evacuating from their homes in Longyearbyen on Thursday. In addition, schools, SFO (After School Activities) and kindergartens are closed.
29 homes in Longyearbyen are being emptied of inhabitants because of the storm and the avalanche hazard that has been issued. In addition, 80 students must evacuate from their bed-sits.
“The evacuation will be implemented on Thursday morning at 8 am, Communications Adviser at the Governor office at Svalbard,” Terje Carlsen, tells NTB.
The decision was made at a meeting with the consulting firm Skred AS and the Norwegian Water and Energy Agency (NVE) on Wednesday afternoon. The residents were notified during the afternoon.
The 29 dwellings are located in the hillside under the mountain Sukkertoppen (Sugar Mountain), while the dormitory is in Nybyen (Newtown). Guesthouse 102 is also being evacuated, Carlsen informs.
General traffic and stay prohibitions are introduced in these areas.
The traffic and stay ban also applies to the scooter routes on the upper side of the houses in Lia and from the school to Nybyen, reports the Governor’s Office (Sysselmannen) on their web pages.
Longyearbyen Local Government, which corresponds to the municipal council, has decided to close parts of the service offers to reduce the risk of unwanted incidents.
Thus, doors will be closed at Longyearbyen school, including SFO, and at the cultural school. Both kindergartens also close on Thursday, as is the Svalbard Hall, the library and the youth club.
Extreme gusts of wind
The Norwegian Meteorological Institute has issued a hazard warning for Svalbard. Extremely strong gusts of winds of up to 45 metres per second can occur.
Due to the strong wind, dangerous situations can arise in the city with loose objects flying through the air, damaging buildings, the Governor’s Office warns.
“You must prepare for very poor visibility, which further reinforces the danger. We encourage people to stay inside,” it reads.
The local Governance in Longyearbyen implores people not to hinder the ploughing crews if visibility becomes very poor.
“If you absolutely have to go out into the blizzard, we encourage the use of reflex and/or reflective vests.”, they add.
At the same time as the strong wind is forecast, there will be a large avalanche risk on Thursday and there is a red hazard warning for Nordenskiøld Land.
Avoid and keep ample distance to steep terrain with fresh drifting snow. Continuous weak snow layers can cause very large avalanches, the forecast warns. Varsom.no on Wednesday afternoon.
Calm before the storm
Already on Tuesday, residents of Svalbard were informed that an evacuation would be considered.
Longyearbyen Local Governance encouraged residents in Lia and Nybyen to locate an «evacuation friend» and to prepare for an evacuation situation.
In large parts of Northern Norway, hazard level red (4) is reported, as well.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today