Hazardous Driving Conditions Expected Today in South Iceland

winter tires reykjavík

Strong westerly winds and snow showers are expected to make for hazardous driving conditions in South Iceland today; yellow weather warnings are in effect. Roads may close without much notice, and travellers are advised to stay updated on weather and road conditions.

Hazardous driving conditions

Westerly winds will blow across the country today, with speeds between 8-15 metres per second (m/s) and scattered snow showers. By noon, that wind is expected to turn into a strong gale or storm in South Iceland, peaking between 4 and 5 PM in the capital area.

The Icelandic Meteorological Office warns that these conditions, especially with brief heavy snowfalls and drifting snow, could make travelling dangerous in South Iceland; yellow weather warnings have been issued. As noted on the website of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration:

“The Icelandic MET office has issued a yellow weather warning today, January 31 for the western part of the country therefore many roads are on a level of uncertainty from 9 AM to 8 PM and may close at short notice. Travellers are asked to familiarise themselves with the conditions and check weather and road updates because conditions can change fast.”   

Travellers can monitor road and weather conditions by visiting the websites of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA) and the Icelandic MET office.

Milder weather tomorrow, storm on Friday

Tomorrow, warmer air will approach Iceland, bringing milder weather. There will be a southwesterly wind at 8-15 m/s with some light showers or snow showers, but generally, it will be dry, especially in the northeast. Temperatures in the afternoon will be between 0 to 6°C.

By midnight tomorrow, rain or sleet is expected in many parts of the country. On Friday, a strong southwest gale or storm is predicted. The weather will get colder with heavy snow showers in the southern and western parts of the country.

Yellow Weather Warning for Much of Nation

iceland weather warning

Yellow weather warnings are in effect for all of Iceland except the East Fjords today and tomorrow, May 23-24.

Residents and visitors are advised to avoid unnecessary travel as a southwest gale will bring sharp winds and rain across the island in the coming days.

Winds up to 23 m/s [51 mph] are expected with potential showers, hail, and sleet. Temperatures are expected to range between 5° and 15° C [41°- 59°F], with warmer temperatures in the Northeast.

Airport operator Isavia has also issued a travel advisory, stating that flights on May 23 and 24 may be affected. Travellers are encouraged to arrive early and monitor their flight status online.

Dangerous conditions are also forecast for Reynisfjara, a popular black sand beach on Iceland’s South Coast. Travellers are advised to avoid the area due to dangerous waves.

Travellers looking for information about weather warnings, travel advisories, and more may find the following links helpful:

Icelandic Road Administration

Keflavík International Airport

Safe Travel

 

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.

Peace Tower Lighting Ceremony Cancelled Due to Weather

Imagine Peace Tower

The annual lighting of the Imagination Peace Tower ceremony on the island of Víðey just off the coast of Reykjavík has been cancelled due to inclement weather. Per an announcement on the City of Reykjavík’s website, Sunday’s planned celebrations have been called off due to wind warnings in Faxaflói Bay, where Víðey is located.

The Imagine Peace Tower is an outdoor artwork by Yoko Ono in memory of her late husband, John Lennon. The white stone monument emits a tower of light, which extends upward at least 4,000 metres (13,100 feet) on a clear night. The words “Imagine Peace” are inscribed on the monument in 24 languages. The tower is lit every year from October 9th, Lennon’s birthday, through December 8th, the date of his assassination. It has been lit every year since 2007.

Lighting will be livestreamed

Typically, free ferries transport guests to Víðey on the evening of the lighting to observe the ceremony and participate in a variety of activities, from live music performances to guided history walks around the island.

Although the in-person ceremony has been cancelled this year, the tower will still be lit as usual, at 8:00PM local time. The lighting will be broadcast live on the Imagine Peace Tower website and RÚV’s television and radio schedule on Sunday evening will include a number of related content, such as a TV segment on the history of the tower, and a radio documentary about the life of John Lennon. His song “Imagine” will also be broadcast at 8:00PM, when the tower is lit.

Yellow Weather Warning For Much of Southwest Iceland

weather iceland

The Meteorological Office of Iceland has declared a yellow weather warning for the capital region, central highlands, Faxaflói bay, and parts of southern Iceland today. High winds and rain are expected in these regions for much of the day.

The inclement weather is due to a low-pressure system situated over the southwest of Iceland, which will determine the weather for the coming days. The region will see considerable rain and winds into the afternoon, with showers expected through many other regions of the country.

Conditions in the highlands are expected to be the worst, with winds between 18 – 25 m/s, and localized gusts possibly reaching 35 m/s northwest of Vatnajökull. Tourists and hikers are advised that such conditions are potentially dangerous. Such high winds can also present a danger to vehicle traffic.

The Faxaflói bay will likewise see strong winds today, with a range of 13 – 20 m/s expected. Local gusts near the mountains may be stronger, approaching 25 m/s near Kjalarnes.

Elsewhere in Iceland

Conditions in the North of Iceland are comparatively milder, with temperatures approaching 15°C (59°F) in Akureyri and Húsavík, although the coming days are expected to bring rain and clouds. Southeast Iceland will experience much rain today, with showers throughout the South Coast as well.

The West Fjords are also expected to have high winds today, with rain throughout much of the day.

Significant Rainfall in South Iceland May Flood Jökulsá River, Destroy Temporary Bridge

Bridge over Jökulsá in Sólheimasandur

Significant rainfall is expected over the next 24 hours around the Eyjafjallajökull glacier in South Iceland and may cause considerable flooding on the Jökulsá river. The Road and Coastal Administration will be monitoring conditions along the Ring Road and bridges in the vicinity, but it is uncertain whether the temporary bridge crossing the Jökulsá river where it runs through the Sólheimasandur flood plain will withstand rising waters. This per an announcement made by the Road and Coastal Administration on Tuesday night.

Construction is currently underway on a new bridge over the Jökulsá at Sólheimasandur and in the meantime, traffic is being diverted onto a temporary bridge. The administration is currently hard at work deepening the riverbed and making other preparations that will hopefully prevent major flooding. Nevertheless, the temporary bridge may not survive significant water rising. In the event that the temporary bridge becomes impassable, traffic east of Skógar will be redirected onto the new bridge and a system of alternating green lights will allow traffic to travel in both directions.

The Road and Coastal Administration notes that railing has not yet been finished along the new bridge so if it is necessary for travellers to use it, the speed limit will be temporarily reduced as a safety precaution. Drivers are asked to heed any such speed reductions.

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning for South Iceland and expects heavy rainfall in the entire region, but especially around Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers. Travellers whose journeys are expected to take them over unbridged rivers are advised to reconsider their travel plans at this time as these rivers may be very difficult to cross or completely impassable.

Updates about road conditions can be found on the Road and Coastal Administration website, here, or by calling 1777 to get the most up-to-date conditions at any time.

Weather Warnings in Several Regions

The Icelandic Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning for four regions in the country: the Westfjords, the North West region, the Eastern coastal areas and the East fjords.

In all four areas, windy and snowy conditions are expected today. “It has snowed and will snow in cold air with light snow which blows easily and reduces visibility,” the Met Office warns. Road conditions in these regions are deteriorating and travellers are advised to show caution and keep on monitoring weather and avalanche forecasts. The severe weather conditions are expected to last until tonight.

The Met Office has also updated its avalanche bulletin, since considerable new snow has accumulated in Tröllaskagi peninsula in North Iceland, in the past hours. There is now “considerable danger” of avalanches in the area, which corresponds to an orange warning on the avalanche danger scale. RÚV has reported that the road through Víkurskarð has been closed due to danger of avalanches.

Temperatures are below zero in all regions, including the capital area. Warmer weather is expected on New Year’s Eve, with an increased chance of precipitation in the capital.

Weather Warning for Eastern Half of Iceland

weather warning

A yellow weather warning is in effect for the eastern half of Iceland from noon today until 3.00am tomorrow. This includes the Northeast, Southeast, Eastfjords and Central Highland. West and northwest winds with gusts of up over 30 metres per second are expected in some areas.

Residents of the affected areas are encouraged to secure any outdoor belongings. Travellers are encouraged to drive carefully and can expect sleet or snow on mountain roads.