Flights Cancelled, Passengers Unable to Disembark Due to High Winds

Gale-force winds and heavy snowshowers caused considerable disruptions for travellers on Sunday, Mbl.is and RÚV report. While most international flights were cancelled or delayed before they departed, however, eight flights from North America were already en route to Keflavík when the weather took a turn for the worst. The unfortunate passengers on seven of these flights were stuck in their planes for six or more hours, as it was too windy to use jet bridges for disembarkation.

On Sunday, the Met Office issued an orange warning for the west and southwest of Iceland, which experienced winds of 18-28 m/s [40-62 mph]; a yellow warning was issued for the rest of the country, where winds gusted at an ever-so-slightly calmer 18-25 m/s [40-55 mph].

Search and Rescue teams used a bus and another large vehicle to shelter an external stairway from the wind. Image via Lögreglan á Suðurnesjum, FB

Eight hundred passengers stranded in planes on runway

Eight airplanes transporting close to 800 passengers from North America landed at Keflavík on Sunday morning around 6:00 am. One of these planes, arriving from Newark, New Jersey, was able to disembark without issue. The other seven were not so lucky. The wind picked up and became too strong to allow for the use of jet bridges. Search and Rescue teams were called in to assist with the disembarking process.

As of 1:00 pm, only one plane’s passengers had been able to exit their aircraft. Search and Rescue teams managed to successfully evacuate the flight, which had flown in from Miami, Florida, by rolling an external stairway up to the pane, sheltering it from the wind with large vehicles, and rigging up a rope system to help passengers keep their balance as they went out into the frosty gusts.

At time of writing, Search and Rescue teams were still working diligently to evacuate the remaining airplanes, and do so as safely as possible.

Weather Alerts Issued Across the Country Today

Waves crashing over Reykjavík lighthouse

The Icelandic Met Office has issued yellow and orange weather alerts across the country today, February 25. An orange weather alert will be in effect for the capital region from 11 AM to 5 PM today.

A season of storms

Two powerful lows have swept across Iceland in relatively quick succession: one in late January and another last Monday. In keeping with this theme, the Icelandic Met Office has issued yellow and orange weather alerts for all of Iceland today.

An orange weather alert will be in effect for the capital region from 11 AM to 5 PM. Reykjavík is expected to be bombarded with heavy wind and precipitation.

As noted on the Met Office’s website: “SE 18-25 m/s with sleet and later rain. Damages due to flying debris are likely and construction workers are encouraged to secure construction sites. Important to clear grates and remove snow from building entrances to prevent flood damage or injury.”

An orange weather alert will also be in effect for Faxaflói Bay, the Westfjords, and the Central Highlands. Yellow weather alerts will apply to the rest of the country.

Route One closed between Reykjavík and South Iceland

In the lead up to the storm, the Icelandic Road Administration has announced that it has closed Route One from Reykjavík to South Iceland (the Hellisheiði segment). Mosfellsheiði toward Þingvallavatn has also be closed. The Road Administration advises that this is no weather for travelling.

For more information on road conditions, visit safetravel.is.