CDC Designates Iceland ‘Very High Risk’ for US Travellers

Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon tourist

The United States’ Center for Disease Control (CDC) designated Iceland Level 4, or Very High Risk, for travellers this week, due to the nation’s high COVID-19 rates. CNN reports that Level 4 is a designation reserved for nations with more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days.

See Also: COVID-19 in Iceland: Restrictions Tightened Again Following Sharp Increase in Infections

The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Guernsey were also listed as Level 4 at the same time. Belgium, The Netherlands, Singapore, Turkey, and the US Virgin Islands are among the 70 destinations around the world that the CDC has designated as Very High Risk at this time.

The CDC advises that US residents do not to travel to Iceland at this time. Americans who do choose to travel to Iceland are advised only to do so if vaccinated—as required by Iceland as well—and to follow local regulations on mask wearing and social distancing.

Icelanders No Longer Advised Against Travel to Europe

Icelandic authorities are no longer advising Icelandic residents against inessential travel to Europe, but continue to advise against travel outside of the continent. The government’s official travel advisory was updated to reflect this on June 23. All countries, however, remain defined as high-risk areas for COVID-19, with the exception of Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

On March 14, 2020, the Icelandic government issued a travel advisory encouraging Icelanders to avoid unnecessary international travel and to return to Iceland if they were currently abroad. That advice has now been revised in light of loosening travel restrictions in Europe and the decline of COVID-19 cases on the continent.

Most Countries Still High Risk

Despite the update, the Chief Epidemiologist’s list of countries with a high risk of infection remains unchanged: the only two countries that have been removed from the list are Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Icelandic authorities continue to advise residents to avoid travel outside of Europe due to travel restrictions and quarantine measures that may be in place.

Conditions Can Change Rapidly

“It should be borne in mind that conditions can change rapidly, and most of Iceland’s partner states have warned that there will be no home transport available as when the pandemic hit in early 2020,” a government notice on the update warns. “Repatriation of Icelanders was based on co-operative efforts with these states and it is not expected that the foreign service will be able to assist Icelanders in the same way it did then if circumstances change.”

Travellers are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the rules and measures in place in the countries they plan to visit as well as the terms of service providers and insurance companies before embarking on a trip abroad.

Storm Moves East Across Iceland

Winter storm Iceland

While weather is calming down in West Iceland, the worst storm of the year is moving eastward across the country. Conditions are yet to worsen before they improve in the Northeast, East, and Southeast regions of the country. Most major roads in those regions are closed and power outages are affecting residents in both North and East Iceland. No casualties have resulted from the storm.

Power outages

Egilsstaðir, East Iceland’s largest town, was reported to be without power around 10.00am this morning. According to Landsnet, power went out around 10.30am this morning in East Iceland between Vopnafjörður and Höfn. Wind speeds have reached 38 metres per second along the country’s east coast, and in Hamarsfjörður gusts of wind reached speeds of 50m/s.

Sauðárkrókur was left without electricity when transmission lines were damaged yesterday evening. Firefighters were working early this morning to clean the lines of ice and snow in an attempt to get them working again.

https://www.facebook.com/landsnet/photos/a.308483769485660/1028144770852886/?type=3&theater

 

Near Akureyri and Dalvík, as well as in other regions, live power lines weighed down with ice and snow are sagging dangerously close to roads.

This morning, RÚV reported that the Westfjords were not receiving power through the national transmission system and all towns in the region were running on reserve power. Outages are still occurring in less populated parts of the region, such as Árneshreppur and Gufudalssveit.

Search and rescue busy

In Suðurnes, Southwest Iceland, search and rescue teams responded to nearly 100 calls yesterday evening alone. At Ólafsvík, North Iceland, some 20 search and rescue volunteers were on duty overnight, but as the storm winds down, many have been sent home. Search and rescue officials stated that the public seems to have taken the weather alerts seriously and was overall well prepared.

On the Westman Islands, wind and flying debris caused significant property destruction. Wind speeds on Heimaey island reached 40 metres per second yesterday evening, with gusts as fast as 52m/s. As of this morning, search and rescue teams on the island had responded to 100 calls. “I don’t know what we Icelanders would do if it weren’t for search and rescue forces,” stated Westman Islands Mayor Íris Róbertsdóttir.

Though weather is improving along the country’s west coast, most road still remain impassable across the country. Readers are advised to stay updated on road conditions and weather conditions online and avoid travel.

Thousands Without Power in North Iceland

power outage

Northwest Iceland’s largest town, Sauðárkrókur, has been without power for over two hours due to extreme weather. Other towns in North Iceland have also faced outages due to power lines being damaged by wind, ice, and snow. A storm bringing hurricane force winds and blizzard conditions is raging across the country, and residents and tourists are being advised to stay put until Wednesday evening.

Landsnet, responsible for Iceland’s electricity transmission, reported at 5.50pm that attempts to restore power to Sauðárkrókur’s roughly 2,600 residents had not been successful. Staff were on their way to examine the damaged line and attempts to provide reserve power were being considered.

Northwest Iceland Police’s Tetra radio system, used to communicate with emergency services, is also out of commission due to the storm, RÚV reports. Stefán Vagn Stefánsson, the region’s Assistant Police Commissioner, stated however that the disturbance did not pose significant problems.

One power line to Akureyri, North Iceland’s largest town, is also out of commission, leaving only one functioning line to power the town. As storm conditions are expected to worsen into the night, Landsnet employees (seen below) may have a long night ahead of them.

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Winter Storm Update: Red Alert Spreads

extreme weather Iceland

A red alert has just been issued in Northeast Iceland due to extreme weather conditions. A red alert continues to be active in Northwest Iceland, while the rest of the country faces an orange alert. Hurricane force winds and blizzard conditions are expected to worsen into the night and continue until Wednesday evening across the country. Residents and travellers in all regions are advised to avoid travel.

Hurricane force winds

The Icelandic Met Office describes Northeast Iceland’s weather conditions as “a violent north storm with hurricane force winds, 25-33 metres per second,” with heavy snow and blizzard conditions. The worst conditions are in Eyjafjörður fjord, but conditions are expected to worsen elsewhere in the region this evening. Higher sea levels are also anticipated as a result of the storm, which may cause damage to small boats in the region or cause them to be detached from docks. The same conditions are present in Northwest Iceland.

The red alert will be in force until 1.00am in Northwest Iceland and until 12.00pm tomorrow in Northeast Iceland.

Security forces on alert

The National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police in collaboration with the District Commissioners in the Westfjords, Northwest Iceland, and Northeast Iceland has decided to raise the uncertainty phase to “alert phase” due to the extreme weather. Alert phase means that security forces increase preparedness and may take measures such as restrictions, closures, evacuations, and relocation of inhabitants.

Roads closures and power outages

There are currently are power outages in several areas in the northern half of the country. Route 1 is closed in both directions out of Reykjavík, with road closures widespread across the country.

In all regions of Iceland, authorities are advising people to avoid travel. Weather and road conditions will be regularly updated on the Icelandic Met Office’s website and road.is.

All Roads Out of Reykjavík Likely Closed Tomorrow

weather warning

 

Extreme weather will likely close all roads in and out of Reykjavík tomorrow starting at noon, RÚV reports. Most of the proposed closures in the capital area are expected to last until Wednesday afternoon. Road closures due to violent winds and heavy snowfall are expected throughout the country on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Road and Coastal Administration has published a list of roads that may be closed tomorrow due to weather. The road closures include Route 1 (the Ring Road), both toward South Iceland and West Iceland. Route 41, which connects the capital region to Keflavík Airport, is also expected to be closed from noon tomorrow until 1.00pm on Wednesday.

Airport staff and rescue teams on standby

Ásdís Ýr Pétursdóttir, Icelandair’s PRO, stated that the airline was considering what effect the road closure and weather will have on flights at Keflavík Airport, but that it was too early to say. Search and rescue representatives have met with authorities to prepare for the coming weather.

Residents and tourists alike are advised against travelling in Iceland tomorrow. Weather and travel conditions are updated regularly on Safetravel’s website.

Extreme Weather Across Iceland Into Wednesday

weather warning

The Icelandic Met Office advises against travel in Iceland tomorrow and Wednesday, as extreme winter weather is forecast across most of the country. Southwest, West, and North Iceland will see the worst conditions, which include blizzards and strong winds, while those in East Iceland can also expect fairly strong winds. Weather is expected to improve by early Thursday morning.

Stormy conditions are expected tomorrow in the Reykjavík area starting around 4.00pm, with winds reaching 20-28 metres per second. In Southwest Iceland, conditions will be similar, with wind speeds of 20-28 metres per second. Road closures are expected in the area from tomorrow afternoon. Wind speeds will decrease in the region early on Wednesday but remain high under Eyjafjöll at 23-33m/s.

Road closures expected

In West Iceland, north of Reykjavík, winds of 20-28m/s are expected, while further north in Breiðafjörður fjord, wind speeds could reach 23-30m/s, with blowing snow limiting visibility. The Westfjords and Northwest Iceland are expected to receive heavy snowfall and winds of 23-33m/s, with snowstorms limiting visibility and transport disturbances expected.

Stormy conditions are also expected in the Eyjafjörður area in North Iceland, with conditions improving as one heads east. The Northeast and East of the country will only have slightly better weather, however, still experiencing blizzard conditions and strong winds. Southeast Iceland will likely experience less precipitation, though violent wind gusts will make driving dangerous, particularly on Wednesday morning.

As is usual at this time of year, the Central Highlands are inaccessible to travellers.

Flying debris likely

Flying debris is likely, and construction workers are encouraged to secure construction sites. Residents are also asked to secure outdoor furniture and belongings. Travelling is not advised while the weather warning is in effect.

As of writing, road.is reports snow showers across South and West Iceland, and roads are reported to be snow-covered, icy, or slippery across the country. Those in Iceland are advised to keep tabs on travel conditions on the Safetravel website.

Travel Advisory: Glacial Flood in South Iceland

The Icelandic Met Office has issued a travel advisory for Southern Iceland, where the Skaftá river is expected to experience a glacial outburst flood (jökulhlaup) over the next few days. According to the announcement, “GPS measurements from the eastern Skaftá cauldron on Vatnajökull show that the ice-shelf above the lake is lowering. This is an early sign of the onset of an outburst flood (jökulhlaup), which will affect the river Skaftá in southern Iceland. The jökulhlaup is expected to reach the edge of Vatnajökull late on Friday 3 August, with the peak of the flood possible during the early hours of Sunday 5 August.”

Travellers are strongly advised to avoid travel near the Skaftá river during the coming days. The advisory also notes that “in addition to flooding along Skaftá, gas pollution from the floodwater could affect the region, particularly at the edge of Skaftárjökull.”

A glacial outburst flood is a subglacial outburst of water usually triggered by geothermal heating and occasionally by eruptions.

According to Hulda Rós Helgadóttir, a natural disaster expert working for the Met Office who spoke to RÚV about the event, the flooding, which began around 1:00 PM local time on Friday, started much earlier than scientists anticipated. Based on measurements and data from the last glacial outburst flood, which took place in 2015, it’s currently expected that the flood waters will take 10 – 12 hours to reach the Ring Road (Route 1).