Evacuation Partially Recalled, Roads May Open Soon

Seyðisfjörður

The partial evacuation of two East Iceland villages–Neskaupstaður and Seyðisfjörður–has been recalled for the former, Austurfrétt reports. Some area roads are still impassable but may open later today.

High winds, heavy snow

As reported, high winds and heavy snow began moving into the region at the start of the weekend. These weather conditions, combined with the tall, steep mountains that East Iceland is famous for, can increase the danger of avalanches.

These two villages, like many other human settlements in East Iceland, rest at the foot of such mountains. For this reason, the neighbourhoods in these villages most in direct danger of an avalanche were evacuated on Saturday.

Roads may reopen today

While Möðrudalsöræfi, Fjarðarheiði and Vopnafjarðarheiði–heath areas with roads connecting coastal villages to the main highway–are still closed at the time of this writing, they may reopen this afternoon, weather permitting.

The current forecast for the region shows snow continuing through the day, but with winds calming down. Check the Met Office site and SafeTravel before venturing into the area.

Two Villages Evacuated Due to Avalanche Danger

avalanche neskaupstaður

The Icelandic Met Office has reported that North and East Iceland are in an “uncertainty phase”, and the East Iceland villages of Neskaupstaður and Seyðisfjörður in particular are in a “danger phase”, due to the chance for avalanches. As a result, parts of both of those villages have been evacuated until further notice.

High winds, heavy snow

The weather forecast predicted the presence of high winds and heavier snowfall moving into East Iceland over the weekend and, as reported, these weather conditions in areas with tall and steep mountains elevate the risk of avalanches. These topographical regions are most prevalent in two areas in particular in Iceland: the Westfjords, and East Iceland.

In addition to these villages being partly evacuated, Seyðisfjarðarvegur–which is the road that connects Seyðisfjörður to Egilsstaðir on Route 1–will also be closed due to the weather.

Alert to extend into evening

The weather is expected to worsen as the day progresses, but is also expected to clear up by Monday morning.

Those planning on traveling through this area during this period are strongly advised to forego those plans, and to check both the Met Office and SafeTravel for updates.

The Heath

seyðisfjörður jessica auer

Jessica Auer is a Canadian photographer and filmmaker. Through her work, she examines our social, political, and aesthetic attitudes towards places, including historical sites, tourist destinations, and small communities. Jessica received her MFA from Concordia University in Montréal, where she teaches part-time. While in Iceland, Jessica runs Ströndin Studio, an educational and experimental centre for […]

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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.

In Focus: Cruise Ships

cruise ship iceland

Small town Iceland isn’t what it used to be. During the peak summer season, some of Iceland’s coastal communities are bustling with cruise ship tourists, overwhelming local residents many times over. For some, these tourists represent an injection of cosmopolitan vitality into otherwise small, sleepy towns. For others, they represent the noise, pollution, and crowds […]

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Pussy Riot Performs at LungA Art Festival in Seyðisfjörður

Pussy Riot

The protest and performance art group Pussy Riot took the stage at the LungA art festival in Seyðisfjörður last night, RÚV reports. This is the first time that the group performs in Iceland after two of its members were granted Icelandic citizenship.

“Cannot express the honour in words”

The LungA art festival, which is held annually in Seyðisfjörður in East Iceland, began last Monday, July 10. Among the performers at the festival is Pussy Riot, a Russian feminist protest and performance art group, which took the stage last night.

Pussy Riot’s show, referred to as a play, is entitled Riot Days and is based on the eponymous book by Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina. As noted on the group’s website, Riot Days is “a story of resistance, repression, and revolution in a mixture of concert, rally, theatre, and political happening.”

Read More: Velvet Terrorism (Iceland Review speaks to Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina)

Pussy Riot has recently toured parts of Europe with Riot Days, with the LungA art festival being the last stop on the journey. As noted by RÚV, this is the group’s first concert in Iceland since two of its members received Icelandic citizenship. Speaking to RÚV, Maria Alyokhina stated that she was grateful for having been granted citizenship. “I cannot express this honour in words.”

Maria also commented on the group’s performance: “I think it’s very important to find these bridges and use the common language of art to talk to each other because the war is about discrimination and hatred.”

Partial Easing of Evacuation Orders in East Fjords Announced

East Iceland March 2023

About 800 people have had to leave their homes due to the risk of avalanches in East Iceland. After reevaluating conditions this morning, the local authorities have announced a partial easing of evacuation orders, Vísir reports.

800 people forced to evacuate their homes

As noted yesterday, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management 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 were also in effect for nearby Neskaupstaður and Seyðisfjörður.

Local authorities have now decided to ease some of the evacuation orders, given that the greatest risk of avalanches has passed – although there remains a risk of slush floods. Avalanche experts have been assessing the conditions this morning and will continue to monitor the situation today, according to Víðis Reynisson, a senior police officer with the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management.

“The night was pretty uneventful. We received information about two slush floods spilling over roads but nothing serious. Nonetheless, the situation is such that there are about 800 people who have had to leave their homes these days and are still away from home. The situation is being fully assessed at the moment,” Víðir told RÚV this morning.

Very few forced to seek refuge at public shelters

Although partial evacuation orders have been lifted, it is clear that not everyone will be allowed to return to their homes today. Víðir told RÚV that the vast majority of the 800 people who had been made to leave their homes had been taken in by friends and family and that, in some places, public shelters had been closed last night as no one had sought refuge. The shelters have, however, been reopened this morning.

As noted by RÚV, the roads in and out of the east fjords remain closed: Fjarðarheiði, Fagridalur, the road from the tunnels to Neskaupstaður, and east Vatnsskarð. Víðir stated that work was being done to open the main roads.

Update: The Icelandic MET Office has decided to lift the evacuation orders for several areas in Seyðisfjörður, Eskifjörður, and Neskaupstaður.

This article was updated at 09.59 AM.

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.

Small Avalanche Falls in Neskaupstaður

ICE-SAR

Another avalanche fell above the town of Neskaupstaður in East Iceland shortly after noon today, Mbl.is reports. The avalanche, which was relatively small, did not reach the town’s protective barriers. In an announcement published today, the East Iceland Police stated that evacuation orders would remain in effect.

Three avalanches, evacuation orders come into effect

After three avalanches struck Neskaupstaður on the night of March 26, and the early morning of March 27, evacuation orders for Neskaupstaður, Seyðisfjörður, and Eskiförður – all located in Iceland’s East Fjords – came into effect. No serious injuries were sustained.

Evacuation orders were lifted for some of the houses in the area yesterday.

As reported by Mbl.is, however, another small avalanche fell above Neskaupstaður shortly after noon today. Rescue workers and reporters were inside the evacuated area and witnessed the avalanche falling firsthand.

Following a meeting of operations control in East Iceland with representatives of the Icelandic MET Office this morning, the East Iceland Police announced that evacuation orders would remain in effect. The authorities are also considering whether to reinstate evacuation orders previously lifted for select areas.

As noted in the announcement, the weather forecast predicts that snowfall will be followed by rain, which may be followed by sleet and possible slush floods. Given the possibility of slush floods, among other things, the police, in collaboration with local authorities, are drawing up plans.

For further information, residents are encouraged to exercise caution and to view evacuation charts on the website of the MET Office: Eskifjörður, Neskaupstaður, Seyðisfjörður.

Risk of Further Avalanches in East Fjords

avalanche neskaupstaður

Evacuation orders for areas of Neskaupstaður, Seyðisfjörður, and Eskiförður, all located in Iceland’s East Fjords, will remain in effect until tomorrow due to the ongoing risk of avalanches. Three avalanches fell in Neskaupstaður during the night and early morning of March 26-27. No serious injuries have been sustained.

Some 500 residents of the three towns have been evacuated from their homes due to the ongoing risk, although the Civil Protection and Emergency Management Department announced this morning that some Neskaupstaður residents could return home today. The emergency phase declared by the Civil Protection Department yesterday has been lowered to an alert phase.

Stormy weather may impact the lifting of evacuation orders. A yellow weather warning has been issued for Southeast Iceland on Wednesday morning that may increase the risk of avalanche in the East Fjords.

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir told RÚV she planned to visit the affected area at the first opportunity. Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson and Minister of Infrastructure Sigurður Ingi Jóhannesson both stated the avalanches in Neskaupstaður gave reason to review avalanche barrier infrastructure in the East Fjords.

Read more about avalanche barriers in Iceland.