The price tag for snow removal in the City of Reykjavík this February is expected to amount to ISK 300 million [$2.3 million; €2.1 million], roughly double the average cost for that month, Vísir reports. Snow plough operators say that consistent snowfall and thick ice on the roads have made the last month a challenge. This was the snowiest February in Reykjavík since the year 2000, according to the Icelandic Met Office.
A series of storms hit Iceland last month, most bringing heavy precipitation. Snow and ice have accumulated in the streets of Reykjavík and snow plough operators have hardly been able to finish clearing the results of one snowfall before the next filled the streets yet again. Cumulative snowfall in Reykjavík last month amounted to 113.8 mm, which is 26% above the average for that month between 1991-2020.
“It’s been a terrible time,” Hjalti Jóhannes Guðmundsson, office manager of land maintenance at the City of Reykjavík stated. “It’s snowed, it’s rained, it’s frozen over, and it’s snowed again. So we never really get to finish our project, to clear properly before the next snowfall begins. So we’ve had to take ploughs and equipment and manpower from the lowest priority in residential streets and put them back in other projects to just start all over again.” Many residential streets in the city have thus had to wait for ploughing as main thoroughfares are prioritised.
Plough operator Þorkell Hjaltason says the ice that has formed on the streets has made snow removal particularly difficult. “This is totally new, at least now. It was more like this around 1980, when I was also ploughing. Then it was often like this. But we haven’t seen this in many years.” He says the conditions have exhausted staff in recent days.
A banner on the City of Reykjavík website states that snow removal is “at full blast,” and urges residents who have comments on snow removal to use the webchat service, online submission form, or send an email, as the phone lines are busy. The banner notes that garbage collection is also behind schedule and asks residents to clear snow and spread salt or gravel around their garbage cans.