Evacuations in Three Additional East Fjords Towns

East Iceland March 2023

The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has issued evacuation orders for parts of Eskifjörður, Stöðvarfjörður, and Fáskrúðsfjörður, three towns in the East Fjords region, due to the risk of slush floods. Evacuation orders remain in effect for nearby Neskaupstaður and Seyðisfjörður. Several avalanches have fallen in Neskaupstaður this week, and heavy precipitation is falling in the region today, increasing the risk of extreme thawing and heavy runoff.

Most roads in the East Fjords region are closed due to avalanche risk and weather conditions. RÚV reports that water is flooding over the road through Berufjörður fjord, in the southern part of East Iceland. Roads in the region are expected to remain closed for the time being.

The Civil Protection Department met at 11:00 AM this morning when it decided to issue the additional evacuation orders. Chief Superintendent Víðir Reynisson stated that the evacuations were precautionary and “not extensive.” They were issued based on known waterways that could swell suddenly due to extreme thaw and runoff as is expected tonight.

Residents of East Iceland are asked to monitor notifications from the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management as well as East Iceland Police, the Icelandic Met Office, and road.is.

Ice Jam in Ölfusá River Causes Concern for Local Utility Company

Ósabotnar

An ice jam has caused the Ölfusá river to spill over onto the road near Ósabotnar, where the boreholes of the Selfossveitur utility company are located, RÚV reports. The surface of the river has risen by more than a metre in the area above the jam, and the situation is being closely monitored.

Rescue teams at the ready, if needed

The water in the river Ölfusá is spilling over onto the road near Ósabotnar, making it impossible for the Selfossveitur utility company to access boreholes in the area, RÚV reports. The overflow is traced to an ice jam that has formed in the river near Efri-Laugardælaeyja; the surface of the river has risen by more than a metre.

The ice jam was probably formed by frazils – small pieces of ice that form in water moving turbulently enough to prevent the formation of a sheet of ice – which extend from the bottom of the river to the surface.

Sigurður Þór Haraldsson, Utilities Director of Selfossveitur, told RÚV that the overflow does not affect the operation of the utilities at present; the borehole structures are elevated above the water and are, therefore, not at risk of flooding. Rescue teams are at the ready if it becomes necessary to access the boreholes. The outlook at the moment, however, is not bad.

“And there’s a dike along there too, of course, which protects the boreholes from ice,” Sigurður stated. In the event of a system failure, however, the boreholes would be difficult to access. “Naturally, we are in touch with the rescue teams constantly. They’re always on hand and ready to sort us out if this happens.”

Warmer weather could bring increased flooding

Current forecasts predict warmer weather during the latter part of the week – and with it, in all likelihood, some rain. This could cause a greater overflow. Any changes that may occur are being closely monitored.

Oddur Árnason, Chief of Police in Selfoss, told RÚV yesterday that drones are being used to monitor the Ölfusá river, along with select locations along the rivers Hvítá and Stóra-Laxá.

“Our people have also examined the conditions at the Skálm river in Mýrdalssandur today as well, to monitor whether there is any risk of ice jams forming in these rivers.”

Oddur added that there was no reason to be overly concerned about the jam in Ölfusá at the moment as drone footage doesn’t indicate that there is much pressure accumulating: “The surface of the river is frozen, and it would be nice if there wasn’t a sudden thaw.”

Flooding in Selfoss an unlikely eventuality

The main concern for the authorities is an ice jam forming below the Ölfusárbrú bridge, which could cause the river to spill into the streets, low-lying houses, or basements in Selfoss. In such cases, the river returns to its old channel within a few hours. Oddur told RÚV, however, that there is no reason to be concerned about the possibility at the moment; such eventualities rarely materialise.

“But we want to tread carefully. We don’t know if it will rain next weekend. As far as the general public is concerned, however – irrespective of the flooding of rivers and lakes – it’s advisable to clean drains and even step onto the street and open the drains. Just to clear any blockages.”

If people aren’t sure where gutters are located in the street, they can  visit www.ja.is and access the 360-degree images on the website. “If all of us do this, it will prevent any unnecessary overflow,” Oddur concluded.

Herring Era Museum Floods: ‘The exhibition area was basically floating’

The award-winning Herring Era Museum in Siglufjörður in North Iceland flooded on Friday, RÚV reports. Staff were met by 40 cm [15.7 in] of water when they arrived, and two days of heavy rain have only exacerbated the situation.

The Herring Era Museum – Síldarminjasafn Íslands, FB

Wellsprings located in the embankment behind the museum tend to collect water underground, and these simply overflowed after days of heavy rainfall. The runoff had no good drainage channel, something that fire chief Jóhann K. Jóhannsson says will need to be addressed in the future.

“[The water] rose really quickly,” said curator Aníta Elefsen. “Around noon, it had reached 77 cm [30 in] and the exhibition area was basically floating, I think that’s the only word for it.”

The Herring Era Museum – Síldarminjasafn Íslands, FB

Artifacts and cultural relics at risk

Located in a former salting station, boathouse, and herring factory in the centre of Siglufjörður, the Herring Era Museum offers an extensive, immersive glimpse into a fascinating period of Icelandic history. The museum has received numerous awards for its innovative curation and live exhibitions. It is, in fact, the only museum in the country to have won the European Museum Award.

The Herring Era Museum – Síldarminjasafn Íslands, FB

Unfortunately, it’s the main exhibition space that has flooded, and although firefighters have been running numerous pumps since Friday, they were still draining water away eight hours later, on Saturday morning. “I think we’re using every available pump in the municipality,” said Aníta.

She says it’s difficult to determine the extent of the damage to the collection at this time but hopes that staff will be able to start doing so early next week.

“Obviously, this is a great deal of water and it’s the exhibition space we’re talking about. There are artifacts and cultural relics. It’s hard to say right now—I think we’ll just have to wait until everything dries and we can walk through here […] without getting our feet wet to assess the situation.”

Grímsvötn Flooding Reaches its Peak, Begins to Recede

grímsvön flooding

The flow of the Grímsvötn glacial flooding reached its peak yesterday morning and has begun to subside. 

The flooding is caused by melting glacial ice from the volcano Grímsvötn, which rests underneath one of Vatnajökull’s ice caps. Glacial flooding from this volcano system is a regular event on Iceland’s south coast, and the most recent round of floods has not caused any significant damage to infrastructure.

Since last night, several earthquakes have been registered at Grímsvötn, but the Meteorological Office reports that there is no significant increase in seismic activity or threat of eruption.

In total, the ice sheet has sunk some 15m, indicating the volume displaced by the flooding. At its peak, the flow from the glacier reached 500m³/s, a level that is not considered to pose any significant risk to the region. Travellers to the south coast may, however, have noticed swollen rivers over the weekend.

Grímsvötn is one of Iceland’s most active volcano systems, with eruption cycles average 5-10 years. With Grímsvötn’s last eruption having taken place in 2011, it may be soon due, but as of now, there are no immediate signs pointing towards and eruption.

Level of Uncertainty Declared over Glacial Flooding from Grímsvötn

Vatnajökull Grímsfjall Grímsvötn Bárðarbunga Kverkfjöll Jöklar Jökull Vísindi

Civil Defense authorities have announced a State of Uncertainty due to glacial flooding from Grímsvötn, a subglacial volcano under Vatnajökull.

The ice sheet has been measured as receding in the last few days, accompanied by increased seismic activity.

Grímsvötn, one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes, has an eruption cycle of 5-10 years. As its last eruption was in 2011, it could mean that it is due soon. Glacial flooding can also trigger subglacial eruptions, which has been known to happen at Grímsvötn.

The glacial flooding is expected to last for several days, but no structural damage is expected. Grímsvötn flooding has become more frequent in recent years, meaning that individual floods are milder and cause less damage to infrastructure.

Read more about Grímsvötn and the flooding at Iceland’s Meteorological Office.

Flooding in Akureyri, Storms Hit North and East Iceland Over Weekend

storms iceland 2022

Storms over the weekend have left much of Akureyri flooded. Streets affected include Norðurgata, Gránufélagsgata, and Eiðsvallagata.

The flooding followed bad storms which shook much of Iceland over the weekend, leaving considerable property damage in their wake.

In a public statement on Facebook, the North Iceland police force have asked residents to not travel unnecessarily, and to not drive in the streets.

Much of the country was under yellow and orange weather warnings over the weekend, with especially bad conditions in the east and southeast. The East Fjords were under a rare red weather warning, with recorded wind speeds up to 64m/s (143 mph).

In a statement to Morgunblaðið, chairman of the regional board of rescue teams in East Iceland Sveinn Halldór Zoëga said he “doesn’t remember such extensive damage.” In the east, Seyðisfjörður and Reyðarfjörður were hit especially hard, with dramatic photos of the damage being shared on social media.

Search and rescue teams were busy, with Sveinn reporting some 50 calls near Seyðisfjörður and Reyðarfjörður. In total, some 200 search and rescue calls went out over the weekend, with 350 volunteers at work. Although extensive property damage was reported, no one is reported to have been injured in the storms.

Damaged Waterline in Hvassaleiti: Nearly 3,000 Tonnes of Water Leaked

Reykjavík sewage Veitur flooding Reykjavík

This Friday evening, September 2, nearly 3,000 tonnes of water leaked when a waterline failed in the Reykjavík neighborhood of Hvassaleiti. According to RÚV, the manager of utility company Veitur stated that they reacted as quickly as possible.

The leak lasted for about an hour, with mechanical crews responding to the incident within 30 minutes. However, because much water remained in the system, it continued for another some 30 minutes after the initial shutoff.

Residents of the area reported the leak around 10PM Friday evening.

Authorities claim that they responded to the situation as well as possible. In a statement to RÚV, Sólrún Kristjánsdóttir, managing director of Veitur, said: “We have reviewed this and it seems to me that we have reacted quickly and well.  But it’s really just a train of water coming from Heiðmörk that we’re stopping. It’s not just a button that you turn off, you have to do it deliberately and slowly, because it can otherwise be a very big blow to the system.”

The pipe in question was 60 years old, having been installed in 1962. As of now, it is unclear what the cause of the failure was, but many older pipes are at risk of breaking at their joints. An investigation is currently underway to determine if the proper maintenance had been performed on the pipe, and if the accident was preventable.

Those affected by the flooding are advised to contact VÍS, Veitur’s insurance company, to apply for damage compensation.

 

 

 

Heavy Rains and Risk of Flooding in North Iceland Today

weather warning north iceland

Considerable rainfall is forecasted for North Iceland today, particularly in the eastern part of the region and on the Tröllaskagi peninsula. Elevated water levels are expected in rivers, and localised flooding may occur. There is also increased risk of rock falls and landslides in the area due to the wet and windy weather. A yellow weather alert has been issued for the region.

Outdoor activities such as hiking are not advised in North Iceland today due to the combination of wet weather, strong wind, and low temperatures. Travellers in the area can monitor weather conditions on the Icelandic Met Office website and road conditions at road.is.

Conditions are expected to improve by 6:00 PM in Northwest Iceland and by 9:00 PM in the northeast region. Mild weather is in the forecast for other regions of the country today.

Significant Rainfall in South Iceland May Flood Jökulsá River, Destroy Temporary Bridge

Bridge over Jökulsá in Sólheimasandur

Significant rainfall is expected over the next 24 hours around the Eyjafjallajökull glacier in South Iceland and may cause considerable flooding on the Jökulsá river. The Road and Coastal Administration will be monitoring conditions along the Ring Road and bridges in the vicinity, but it is uncertain whether the temporary bridge crossing the Jökulsá river where it runs through the Sólheimasandur flood plain will withstand rising waters. This per an announcement made by the Road and Coastal Administration on Tuesday night.

Construction is currently underway on a new bridge over the Jökulsá at Sólheimasandur and in the meantime, traffic is being diverted onto a temporary bridge. The administration is currently hard at work deepening the riverbed and making other preparations that will hopefully prevent major flooding. Nevertheless, the temporary bridge may not survive significant water rising. In the event that the temporary bridge becomes impassable, traffic east of Skógar will be redirected onto the new bridge and a system of alternating green lights will allow traffic to travel in both directions.

The Road and Coastal Administration notes that railing has not yet been finished along the new bridge so if it is necessary for travellers to use it, the speed limit will be temporarily reduced as a safety precaution. Drivers are asked to heed any such speed reductions.

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning for South Iceland and expects heavy rainfall in the entire region, but especially around Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers. Travellers whose journeys are expected to take them over unbridged rivers are advised to reconsider their travel plans at this time as these rivers may be very difficult to cross or completely impassable.

Updates about road conditions can be found on the Road and Coastal Administration website, here, or by calling 1777 to get the most up-to-date conditions at any time.

Road and Coastal Administration Work All Night to Prevent Route One from Flooding

Employees of the Road and Coastal Administration worked through the night to ensure that rising water levels in the Djúpadalsá river Skagafjörður, North Iceland would not flood Route One (the Ring Road). RÚV reports that breakwaters along a five-kilometre stretch of the road have been damaged. Skagafjörður has received a great deal of rain in recent days and all the rivers in the area are rising.

Road and Coastal workers used bulldozers to try and reinforce breakwaters that were at risk due to rising waters and contain the Djúpadalsá river. Route One also needed fortification, said Stefán Öxndal Reynisson, an inspector with the Road and Coastal Administration in Sauðárkrókur.

“These breakwaters are really damaged for probably close to five kilometres and the only channel leading into the Djúpadalsá river is now just overflowing with stuff after we’d gotten it in pretty good shape when we dredged it for three or four years.”

The extent of the damage has yet to be determined, but it’s estimated that it will cost tens of millions of krónur to rebuild the breakwaters that have been destroyed.

Screenshot, RÚV

Unusual for many rivers to flood at once

Stefán says that usually, only one river floods at once. “But it was just all the rivers yesterday evening and overnight. It didn’t help that the Héraðsvötn river was also full and there was a bit of a bottleneck into the Djúpadalsá river as well.”

There’s still a great deal of water in the rivers, all of which are churning dark and muddy. It’s expected that the Road and Coastal Administration will need to spend a great deal of time reshaping the channel of the Djúpadalsá river so that it will be able to accommodate the next flood. But for now, the sole focus is on keeping the river under control until conditions improve.

“It’s a little colder now, so I’m hopeful that the water level in the river will go down so that we can see what we’ve really got to do here,” said Stefán.