STORM UPDATE: No new evacuations ordered after 2 p.m. meeting; officials to reevaluate situation at 5 p.m.


No further evacuations beyond Nybyen have been ordered following a meeting of the local emergency council at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The council will meet again when a new weather forecast is issued at 5 p.m. to determine if an approaching snowstorm puts additional structures at risk.“There’s no more change in the situation so far,” said Terje Carlsen, a communications advisor for The Governor of Svalbard.

The Norwegian Meteorological Institute’s forecast as of mid-afternoon was nine to 18 millimeters of precipitation and gale-force winds of 90 kilometers an hour gusting to 135 kilometers an hour in exposed locations.

The evacuation of Nybyen was ordered at about noon due to the storm expected to reach its peak between 6 p.m. Wednesday and noon Thursday. The Norwegian Meteorological Institute has declared it is similar in character to the storm that triggered a massive avalanche last Dec. 19, but somehwhat less intense.

Svalbard Gov. Kjerstin Askholt said in a prepared statement experts believe avalanches may be triggered by the approaching storm, but does not believe they will reach settlements. However, Nybyen was evacuated because it is considered most at risk.

The other area most likely to be evacuated is Lia, between Vei 222 and Vei 230, where last year’s avalanche hit. Officials have urged residents not to travel after 6 p.m., meaning an evacuation order after the 5 p.m. meeting could present complications due to the intensity of the weather.