Iceland Weather: Storms, Road Closures, and Avalanche Risk

winter tires reykjavík

Iceland’s Ring Road (Route 1) is currently closed over Öxnadalsheiði heath, between Akureyri and Reykjavík, due to weather. Yellow weather warnings have also been issued across much of the country today due to strong winds. The Icelandic Met Office declared an “uncertainty phase” in the East Fjords this morning due to the risk of avalanches.

Seyðisfjörður alavanche risk

There was heavy precipitation in Seyðisfjörður last night, with continuing precipitation at higher elevations and a strong E-ENE wind in the mountains, according to a notice from the Icelandic Met Office. Precipitation should slow throughout the day, and the wind speed is expected to slow and change direction to a northerly. Experts are monitoring conditions closely.

Strong winds and blowing snow

Gale-force winds are expected today across much of Iceland, including the Westfjords, West, North, East, and Southeast. Wind speeds in these areas could reach speeds of 20 metres per second. Blowing snow is in the forecast for most of these regions as well. Poor driving conditions can be expected as a result of weather, as well as traffic disruptions and road closures.

Travellers and affected residents are encouraged to monitor weather and road conditions before setting out.

Difficult Road Conditions Expected in Capital Area on New Year’s Eve

snow shovelling

The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration has issued a weather alert for South and Southeast Iceland for tomorrow, New Year’s Eve. Difficult conditions may lead to road closures.

“Finish your errands today” Meteorologist recommends

On its Twitter page this morning, the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA) issued a weather alert for New Year’s Eve (Gamlársdagur in Icelandic, literally Old Year’s Day).

“Expect difficult road conditions and even some road closures on New Year’s Eve in South and Southeast Iceland.” IRCA also notes that road conditions may be spoiled on the night before New Year’s Day (which is the time that many Icelanders make their way back home following celebrations with relatives).

In an interview with Fréttablaðið this morning, meteorologist Einar Sveinbjörnsson warned that travel could prove difficult in many places in the capital region and in South Iceland.

“It looks as if roads will be impassable in the capital region and Suðurnes as early as Saturday morning. Snowfall will be heaviest in South Iceland and in the lowlands of South Iceland. There will also be a lot of snow east of Strandir and east of Vík, which will fall during the middle of the day,” Einar stated, adding that he predicts that parts of the Ring Road will become impassable.

“There is greater uncertainty in the west of the country, on the Snæfellsnes peninsula and in Borgarfjörður, for example. It will also snow there, but there will be less snow.”

Einar added the caveat that everything could change as far as the weather forecast was concerned although he recommended people finish their errands today (before New Year’s Eve): “It remains uncertain that people will be able to get between places tomorrow,” Einar observed. “Both between different parts of the country and also within towns and neighbourhoods. This applies primarily to the capital region, Suðurnes, and South Iceland.”

More Road Closures Following Heavy Snowfall

winter weather road snow

Recent snowfall has led to road closures throughout the country.

Snow removal teams are working at full capacity, stated Eiður Fannar Erlendsson, overseer of winter service for Reykjavík City. With 20 vehicles, he estimates that it will be some four to five days until roads in the capital area are fully cleared.

As of the morning of December 27, Route 1 on the South Coast between the Markarfljót river and Kirkjubæjarklaustur is closed. Additionally, Hellisheiði, the important pass between the Reykjanes peninsula and Hveragerði is also closed. Road closures are subject to change, and travelers are advised to check for the latest information.

Conditions in Grindavík, a town on the South Coast of the Reykjanes peninsula, are also reported as being bad. The road to Grindavík is closed, with reports of cars abandoned in the snow. Road teams were at work in Grindavík until early this morning to ensure that healthcare workers could get to work.

Additionally, two houses in Mýrdalur, east of Vík, were evacuated due to avalanche risk.

Morgunblaðið also reports that December of this year has seen some 128 calls to ICESAR, Iceland’s volunteer search and rescue. Last year during the same time period saw 40 search and rescue calls, a significant increase.