Extreme Weather Closures for Schools, Bus, Post Office, and Health Clinics

Snow in Reykjavík

All kindergartens and elementary schools in Reykjavík will be closed on Friday due to extreme weather, RÚV reports, as will schools in Suðurnes and throughout South Iceland. As of Thursday afternoon, most upper secondary schools in the capital had announced closures and the University of Iceland and University of Reykjavík also announced that their Friday classes would be cancelled. The closures come as a result of a red weather alert issued by the Icelandic Met Office.

All doctor’s appointments at local health clinics in Reykjavík are cancelled on Friday, although the clinics will be open and minimally staffed for emergency situations. Similarly, the National and University Hospital has indicated on its website that patients who have booked outpatient procedures are asked to abide by the directives of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management and delay their visit until the weather has abated. Patients can contact Landspítali at 543-1000 to rebook their appointments, or else be in touch via the online chat portal on the homepage of the hospital’s website.

All bus service within the greater Reykjavík area will be cancelled on Friday. Strætó will issue further service updates on its website between 10 and 11am. There will be no mail delivery on Friday anywhere that a red weather alert is in effect. Conditions will be assessed in those parts of the country where an orange alert has been issued, but widespread postal service interruptions are expected.

The Greater Reykjavík Area is expected to see “violent east winds … with [a] sustained wind speed [of] 28-35 m/s and violent and dangerous wind gust [that] may exceed 55 m/s near [the] mountains south of Borgarfjörður.” Somewhat calmer winds are expected in the northern part of the area. The Met Office predicts poor visibility, elevated sea levels due to storm surge, and a risk of damage from flying debris. Travelling while the weather alert is in effect is strongly discouraged; roads to and from the greater Reykjavík area were closed on Thursday night and are expected to remain so until Friday afternoon at the earliest.

Red Weather Alert Issued for South Iceland Tomorrow

Weather Alert

The Icelandic Met Office has issued a red weather alert for South Iceland tomorrow. An orange weather alert will be in effect for most of Iceland, as well. All roads leading to the Greater Reykjavík Area will be closed tonight and are expected to remain closed until tomorrow afternoon, RÚV reports.

Red Weather Alert

According to a recent update on the Icelandic Met Office’s website, extreme weather is expected tomorrow morning, with the possibility of hurricane-force winds in large parts of South Iceland. The weather will be at its most extreme between 6 am and noon tomorrow.

The Greater Reykjavík Area is expected to see “violent east winds … with [a] sustained wind speed [of] 28-35 m/s and violent and dangerous wind gust [that] may exceed 55 m/s near [the] mountains south of Borgarfjörður.” Somewhat calmer winds are expected in the northern part of the area. The Met Office predicts poor visibility, elevated sea levels due to storm surge, and a greater risk of damages from flying debris.  Travelling is not advised while the weather warning is in effect.

State of Uncertainty

The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has declared a phase of uncertainty for the entire country tomorrow. From the Department’s website:

“[An] uncertainty phase … is characterised by an event which has already started and could lead to a threat to people, properties, communities or the environment. At this stage[,] the collaboration and coordination between the Civil Protection Authorities and stakeholders[is initiated.] Monitoring, assessment, research[,] and evaluation of the situation is increased. The event is defined and a hazard assessment is conducted regularly.”

For further information regarding road and weather conditions, see Safetravel.is.

Reykjavík Zoo to Acquire Five Pythons

The Environment Agency has granted Reykjavík Zoo a permit to import five ball pythons to the country, Vísir reports. Þorkell Heiðarsson, project manager at the zoo, says the zoo has yet to decide when they will start the process, but importing the snakes will take some time. “We’re not in a hurry but it’s time to restock the reptiles.”

The ball python (Python regius) is a nonvenomous constrictor native to West and Central Africa. It is the smallest of the African pythons, growing to a maximum length of 182cm (71.6in). Ball pythons require a minimum temperature of 21°C (69.8°F) and humidity of at least 50%. It is therefore not surprising that a risk assessment conducted by a foreign expert concluded that if the snakes were to escape, they would not survive in the wild in Iceland.

Þorkell has warm praise for the snakes’ character. “Pythons are widely used in teaching. They are considered agreeable, both calm and good-tempered.”

Glimmer of Hope from Latest Capelin Stock Numbers

capelin fishing

The Marine and Freshwater Research Institute (MFRI) released preliminary figures today of capelin stock measurements made between February 1 and 9. The total amount of spawning stock is 250,000 tonnes. That number is higher than January measurements, but more capelin needs to be found for the MFRI to recommend a fishing quota this season. Another research expedition will be made next week.

The second expedition found 64,000 tonnes more of capelin than the first, which the MFRI says warrants a third research expedition next week. The third expedition would still need to find at least 150,000 additional tonnes of capelin in order for the MFRI to give out a quota this season.

No capelin quota was given out in 2019 after stocks were found to be too low. In the Westman Islands (pop. 4,300), last year’s shortage impacted 350 employees directly and led to a loss of wages of at least ISK 1 billion ($7.9m/€7.25m), according to a new report. Another shortage would prove a second economic hit to towns around the country that rely on capelin fishing and processing.

Fisheries Minister Kristján Þór Júlíusson told Kjarninn he would be open to discussing the impact of another shortage on communities across the country and what measures could be taken. “If a capelin shortage occurs for the second year in a row, then there is full reason for the government to discuss how the situation could be addressed with these municipalities. Circumstances vary by municipality, but if the blow can be mitigated in some way then it’s a matter of course to review that.”

Iceland to Manage Kosovo’s Airspace

KFOR Iceland Kosovo Airspace

Iceland has acquired the rights to manage Kosovo’s lower airspace, according to a press release from NATO’s peacekeeping mission in Kosovo (KFOR). Arnór Sigurjónsson, Director General of the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and General Michele Risi, KFOR commander, signed the framework agreement last Friday.

“Iceland will contribute to the KFOR mission through the provision of assistance in efforts to normalise the lower airspace over Kosovo,” the NATO statement reads. Kosovo’s lower airspace has been closed to civil air traffic except for flights to and from Pristina, its capital.

“The finalisation of this agreement is an important step in the process to establish all of the necessary conditions for the opening of new routes in the lower airspace of Kosovo, in a safely [sic] and orderly manner,” the statement continues. “It will also contribute to the ongoing efforts to promote the normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, within the framework of the EU sponsored dialogue.”