Ice Jam in Ölfusá River Causes Concern for Local Utility Company


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 and access the 360-degree images on the website. “If all of us do this, it will prevent any unnecessary overflow,” Oddur concluded.

Two Bodies Discovered on Sólheimasandur

Plane Wreck

The bodies of two Chinese tourists were discovered on Sólheimasandur in South Iceland yesterday, Vísir reports. One hundred fifty metres separated the bodies, which were found not far from the DC plane wreck.

150 metres apart

Police authorities in South Iceland received a report of the body of a young woman on Sólheimasandur, near the path to the DC plane wreck, at just past noon yesterday. At 2 pm, the body of a young man was discovered roughly 150 metres from the first body. The cause of their deaths remains unknown; the police are awaiting autopsy results.

Police believe that the pair were travelling together and that they may have died from exposure. A rental car was found at the Sólheimasandur parking lot. The vehicle had passed through Hvolsvöllur at just past 3 pm on Monday, January 13. The car’s windows were broken. Weather conditions on Monday were extreme.

An unusual discovery

In an interview with Vísir, Oddur Árnason, chief constable of the South Iceland Police, stated that the discovery was unusual; the pair was in their twenties, and their bodies were found 150 metres apart.

“It’s unusual to find two bodies in open country,” the constable stated.

According to Oddur, the police arrived on the scene immediately after being notified. It is believed that the pair died from exposure.

“We know that they passed traffic cameras on Hvolsvellir on Monday at around 3 pm and that on Monday and Tuesday the weather was egregious, which offers some clues. We don’t want to make assumptions, however.”

The Chinese Embassy has been notified of the discovery.

This article was updated at 11:08 am.