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.

Yellow Weather Warning Across South Iceland

yellow weather warning Feb 1 2024

Heavy rain and extreme thawing are expected across the Reykjavík capital area, as well as the western, southern, and southwest regions of Iceland tonight. The Icelandic Met Office has issued yellow weather alerts for the regions between 8:00 PM this evening and 6:00 AM tomorrow morning.

Rain and rapidly rising temperatures are expected to cause higher water levels in rivers and streams as well as an increased risk of flooding. Locals are advised to clear grates to prevent flood damage from rain and meltwater. Conditions are also expected to be slippery, due to rainfall on ice and compressed snow. Travellers are encouraged to exercise caution and monitor weather forecasts and road conditions regularly.

No Red Weather Warnings in Iceland in 2023

weather warning map

No red weather alerts were issued in Iceland last year. The year’s weather was relatively calm, at least when considering the number of weather warnings issued. The total number of warnings issued by the Icelandic Met Office was 311, which is slightly below average. Of those warnings, 280 were yellow weather warnings and 31 were orange weather warnings.

Weather fluctuates between years

The numbers are significantly lower than in 2022, when 456 weather warnings were issued: 372 yellow, 74 orange, and ten red. When data from the past six years is compared, it is clear that the number of weather warnings fluctuates considerably between years. In 2020, just 235 weather warnings were issued, while in 2020, the total number of weather warnings was 531.

Last year’s weather warnings were fairly evenly distributed across the country’s regions, with around 25-35 warnings issued for each region. The capital area and East Iceland received just 15 and 18 weather warnings respectively, however.

Most warnings due to wind

Most of the weather warnings issued in 2023 were due to strong winds, although warnings were also issued due to rain, snow, and rapid thawing (known to cause flooding). Yellow weather warnings indicate a high probability of poor weather with limited societal impact, while red weather warnings indicate that the weather conditions will have a significant impact on society.

Siglufjörður Resident Loses Home to Severe Storm

Siglufjörður

A severe storm hit the town of Siglufjörður in North Iceland on Monday night, leading to the complete destruction of one residence. RÚV spoke to the homeowner yesterday, whose three cats remain missing.

“Future plans” blown away

A severe storm swept through the town of Siglufjörður in North Iceland on Monday night, prompting local authorities to issue an orange weather alert.

In the early morning of Tuesday, September 19, it was confirmed that a residence had been completely demolished by the storm. RÚV interviewed homeowner Hilmar Daníel Valgeirsson yesterday, who admitted that the inclement weather had taken the community by surprise.

Hilmar, an eight-year resident of Siglufjörður with an American upbringing, stated that while he was familiar with weather-related damage from his time in Florida, he had not anticipated such an event in Iceland. He had been intermittently at home that evening and was alerted by concerned neighbours about unusual noises emanating from his property.

“A neighbour reported loud, unsettling noises. Upon inspection, I realised that my home’s roof had been severely damaged,” Hilmar recounted. He is currently residing with his father and noted that local residents have extended offers of assistance. His three cats, however, remain missing.

“All of my future plans have simply been blown away,” Hilmar lamented.

“A dangerous storm”

As noted by RÚV, Strákar (the local rescue team in Siglufjörður), in coordination with local police and fire departments, was actively engaged in emergency response efforts. Debris, including roof tiles and wooden planks, was scattered throughout the town, posing a significant risk, though no injuries have been reported.

Magnús Magnússon, Chair of the Strákar rescue team, emphasised the danger that the storm had posed to the area, particularly near the docks. “We took measures to restrict vehicular access to mitigate risks,” he said, adding that while northeastern winds are common in Siglufjörður, the severity of this storm warranted regional warnings.

Decision to be made on Seyðisfjörður evacuations

Hjördís Guðmundsdóttir, Communications Director for the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, informed RÚV that assessments are underway to determine ongoing landslide risks in Seyðisfjörður. The MET Office is currently evaluating conditions, and several homes in Seyðisfjörður remain evacuated. Hjördís anticipates a decision on the status of the evacuations will be made by midday.

First “Autumn Storm of the Year” to Make Landfall This Weekend

Waves crashing over Reykjavík lighthouse

A meteorologist with the Icelandic MET Office has warned of an upcoming storm that is unusually early for the season. Its impact is expected across various parts of the country this weekend, although no official warnings have been issued.

“An honest storm”

“It looks like we’re going to get an honest storm,” Eiríkur Örn Jóhannsson, a meteorologist on duty at the Icelandic MET Office, told Vísir yesterday.

“There is a slight autumn flavour to this low-front, and it is coming – that’s quite clear. However, it is not yet clear which area of the country will be most affected. But it is quite clear that there will be a storm somewhere and even heavy rain in some parts of the country,” he added.

Eiríkur pointed out that this kind of storm was unusually early in the seasonal cycle. As a result, the MET Office believed it is prudent to warn the public in advance, despite not having issued any official warnings yet. Eiríkur indicated, however, that official warnings were forthcoming, although the specifics remained undetermined at this time.

According to the MET office’s current analysis, the most severe weather is expected in South and West Iceland in the early hours of Saturday. When questioned about the potential impact on the annual Ljósanótt festival in Reykjanesbær, he cautioned: “I would at least monitor the weather forecast closely and take the appropriate actions.”

Yellow Weather Alerts in Most of Iceland Tonight and Tomorrow

Yellow weather alerts will be in place in North Iceland, East Iceland, Southeast Iceland, and the Central Highlands tonight and tomorrow, Vísir reports. Residents in the Eastfjords and Southeast Iceland are encouraged to secure outdoor furniture.

Storms to hit hardest in East Iceland and Central Highlands

Following some rather untoward weather in Iceland over the past few days, yellow weather alerts will come into effect in North Iceland, East Iceland, Southeast Iceland, and the Central Highlands tonight and tomorrow, Vísir reports. Most of the alerts will take effect tomorrow morning and will be valid until 3 PM Saturday (some alerts will take effect tonight).

The Westfjords, Northeast, and Northwest Iceland will likely see snowfall on mountain roads, with poor visibility and driving conditions; and there will be rain and sleet in the lowlands. East Iceland will experience sharp gusts, with stormy weather on mountain roads, poor visibility, and deteriorating driving conditions until midday tomorrow (“hazardous conditions” for travel). The weather will be at its worst, however, in the Eastfjords and Southeast Iceland – where residents are encouraged to secure outdoor furniture – and in the Central Highlands.

Waiting on summer

The weather is, however, expected to improve around the beginning of June. As noted by Vísir yesterday, meteorology enthusiast Mohammed Emin Kizilkaya recently predicted that residents could expect good weather around the end of the month, for “summer would be on its way to the country.”

In an interview with the hosts of the radio programme Reykjavík síðdegis yesterday, Meteorologist Sigurður Þ. Ragnarsson agreed with Mohammed’s assessment: “It must be said that what he is saying is visible on our maps,” Sigurður observed.

Mohammed predicted that temperatures of up to 25°C could be expected in East Iceland on May 28. “He is also quite right in saying that temperatures in the east will exceed twenty degrees. Not necessarily on May 28, however, but it is likely,” Sigurður commented.

“It’s also right to note,” Sigurður continued, “that this is what we, both myself, Einar Sveinbjörnsson, and others, have been talking about: we’re expecting a good summer and what’s happening is that this high-pressure zone in the south is bringing humid, tropical air. This means that we’ll get westerly winds while this high-pressure zone remains to the south of the country, which further means that weather in East Iceland will be prime.”

No premature celebrations

In the aforementioned interview, Sigurður warned against any premature celebrations of summer: “Because we have to endure Saturday, which will be a day of bad weather, cold and insufferable – but then things will begin to improve. This high-pressure zone is heading over the country, and then we will have sunshine in most if not all parts of the country.”

Sigurður added that the eastern and southern parts of Iceland were looking the most favourable, as far as the forecasts were concerned, for the last days of May. “But it’s an extremely favourable outlook, and it’s in the spirit of what we’ve been talking about. It doesn’t surprise me that now is the time that summer begins – and that it will do so with full force.”

“I would really like to have a summer house in East Iceland as it looks now,” Sigurður concluded by saying.

Orange Weather Alert Tomorrow Morning Across Iceland

orange weather alert Icelandic met office storm

Travellers across Iceland are asked to stay put tomorrow morning, as gale-force winds and blizzard conditions will hit nearly all regions of the country. The Icelandic Met Office has issued an orange weather alert between 6:00 AM and 1:00 PM tomorrow, with conditions expected to improve in the afternoon.

The storm will arrive from the southwest, hitting the Reykjavík capital area, south, and west of the country early tomorrow morning. It will move eastward across the country, with orange alerts issued for all regions except the Ísafjarðardjúp area, for which a yellow alert has been issued.

The storm will bring winds of 20-28 metres per second with violent wind gusts of over 40 metres per second expected near mountains. The winds make travel extremely dangerous and carry a risk of property damage: residents are encouraged to secure outdoor belongings before the storm hits. Heavy precipitation in the form of sleet or snow is expected across the country, particularly in South, North, and East Iceland and will create blizzard conditions and poor visibility.

Travellers can monitor the forecast on the Icelandic Met Office website and road closures and conditions at road.is.

Young Woman Died from Cold-Weather Exposure in December

A woman in her forties was found dead not far from her home near Esjumelur in Mosfellsbær on December 20, RÚV reports. The precise time of her death remains unknown.

The storm before Christmas

Following heavy snow in the capital area during the days leading up to Christmas, Reykjanesbraut – the road leading to Keflavík Airport – became impassable. The closure led to numerous flight delays and cancellations, with many travellers expressing their criticism of the Icelandic authorities.

During the time of the storm, a woman in her forties – living in Esjumelur in Mosfellsbær – was on her way home on foot. She was found dead near her residence on December 20. She died from exposure to cold temperatures. The precise time of her death is unknown.

In an interview with RÚV yesterday, Chief Inspector of the Capital Area Police, Grímur Grímsson, stated that there was no evidence of foul play.

Death from exposure in Iceland is extremely rare, but the cold snap that has persisted in the country over the past six weeks has been one of the worst in years.

Yellow Weather Alert Takes Effect for All of Iceland

Waves crashing over Reykjavík lighthouse

A yellow weather alert took effect for most parts of the country early this morning. A quick thaw later in the day is expected to produce heavy snowmelt. Residents are encouraged to clear snow away from gutters and icicles from roofs.

Extreme cold finally coming to a close

After six weeks of extreme cold, the weather in Iceland began to warm last night. In an interview with Fréttablaðið yesterday, Teitur Arason, a meteorologist with the Icelandic Met Office, stated that the cold spell was finally coming to an end.

“Today is the last day with this extreme cold,” Teitur said yesterday. After warmer weather this weekend, however, it will get cold again – but not as cold as over the past six weeks.

“On the one hand, the forecast expects a storm during the early part of tomorrow and then followed by a quick thaw.”

Teitur expects that the weather will grow calmer on Sunday but after the weekend, winter weather is expected to set in again. December and January have been unusually cold:

“What’s unusual, and what will go down in history, is this cold snap that has been going on for the last six weeks; we’ve seen an unusually long period of extreme frost. The swing in temperature over the course of one day will be quite extreme – and we will probably see the greatest swings in temperature in Víðidalur valley in Northeast Iceland. It was freezing there this morning (-23.4°C), but tomorrow [i.e. today, January 20) ] temperatures will rise to 7°C. That’s a swing of thirty degrees. This owes to the fact that we’ve been sitting in cold air and then a low-pressure system will move into the country and bring a lot of hot air. This is more normal weather at this time of year as opposed to this long cold snap.”

In an interview with Mbl.is yesterday, Jón Þór Víglundsson, Public Relations Officer for ICE-SAR (the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue), stated that rescue teams were at the ready: “The forces are ready, and if they have to, they will be called out.”

Difficult road conditions are expected to form over the course of the day.

Airlines Recovering from Storm Delays, Arranging for Stranded Passanger Transport

Keflavík airport Icelandair

Flights to and from Iceland seem to be back to normal following the storm. According to Isavia’s website, some of Icelandair’s arriving flights were cancelled or delayed but most departures have taken off despite delays. Iceland air and Play Air are making arrangements to get stranded passengers to their destinations in time for Christmas.

Icelandair released a statement late last night that they are working hard to get their passengers to their destination in time for Christmas. Yesterday, the airline had 17 departures to Tenerife, Las Palmas, Copenhagen, London and North America, as well as transporting passengers from Keflavík to Reykjavík and supplies to the depleted stores of the airport terminal. They claim that the outlook for today is good, even though some flight disruptions may occur. Prospective passengers are asked to pay close attention to flight information.

Play air also issued a statement yesterday, stating that hopefully flight disruptions will be over today. Play will be collecting the airline’s new passenger jet immediately instead of next spring as previously scheduled. This means that the airline will have seven planes of its own to transport stranded passengers, as well as rental planes.

The winter weather had various effects on airport services and yesterday, travellers were asked to refrain from arriving in private vehicles as the longterm-parking lots were covered in snow. Today, they’ve been reopened, but those who intend to park their cars at Leifsstöð are asked to pre-book parking online. According to an Isavia statement: “Our team worked into the night and others took over this morning to carry out cleaning work in all P areas and around the terminal. The task is huge due to the heavy snowfall and some cars are still covered in snow. We kindly ask all passengers to pre-book parking online.”