Rising tide: 300M for new Longyearbyen harbor – 100M more than originally planned – proposed by Parliament leaders

Rising tide: 300M for new Longyearbyen harbor – 100M more than originally planned – proposed by Parliament leaders

Longyearbyen took a big step closer toward a new harbor this week as Parliament and local leaders announced 300 million kroner is being sought for the project in the new National Transportation Plan More »

Controversial French explorer convicted fined 40K for illegal boat voyage in Svalbard; he says he will appeal

Controversial French explorer convicted fined 40K for illegal boat voyage in Svalbard; he says he will appeal

A French explorer waging a war of accusations against Norway’s government since being detained in northeast Svalbard during a boat trip last fall was convicted Tuesday and ordered to pay 40,000 kroner for More »

Briefs from Svalbardposten for the week of March 21, 2017

Briefs from Svalbardposten for the week of March 21, 2017

Store Norske hoping to build 21 new housing complexes Store Norske is hoping to ease Longyearbyen’s sudden housing shortage by building new apartment buildings in Gruvedalen in an accelerated process beginning this spring, More »

Burning up: Local environmentalists tell Norway’s government not to bring Arctic oil to a firefight

Burning up: Local environmentalists tell Norway’s government not to bring Arctic oil to a firefight

They were forced to give ground to Mother Nature’s Arctic persona before making their objections heard. Their hope is those targeted by the protests will make similar concessions – or be forced More »

Guess who’s in the house? Workers aren’t sure where they can live after latest avalanches redefines ‘community in transition’

Guess who’s in the house? Workers aren’t sure where they can live after latest avalanches redefines ‘community in transition’

Eighteen months ago there were scary headlines about Longyearbyen losing 30 percent of its population and panicky questions about who would fill all those empty homes where laid off coal miners recently lived. More »

 

Wasted on cracks: One year after hasty evacuation of Gamle Sykehuset evacuees’ hopes crumbing with the building

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(Author’s note: I planned to write a “straight” news article about last year’s sudden and drastic evacuation of Gamle Sykehuset, but this week’s avalanche and my once again going through what I did in that building sort of screwed that up. These are my thoughts as one of the evacuees a year later supplemented with factual updates from Svalbardposten, which did exceptional coverage despite being swamped with the avalanche. You’ll have to buy a 30-kroner daypass to read it, but since I’m quoting it I obviously consider it worthy.)

A year after being hastily forced out of my home permanently for the first time, only one thing is certain: the living room of the flat I was in must be pretty drafty during storms these days.

AVALANCHE UPDATE: Evacuees allowed into homes from 3-6 p.m. Friday, noon-3 p.m. Saturday; more chances to come

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People living in residents still evacuated after Tuesday’s avalanche will be allowed into their homes to retrieve belongings from 3-6 p.m. Friday and noon-3 p.m. Saturday, according to The Governor of Svalbard.

There will be more chances to enter residences at times to be announced. The long-term forecast for Longyearbyen calls for temperatures well below zero degrees Celsius and no precipitation through next Saturday.

Rant: You may want to go home – for maybe the last time ever. The Sequel (20 minutes in a freezing hell with little left to lose)

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This time, almost exactly a year to the day later, there was no forewarning it might happen. Instead of two hours, I had 20 minutes. There was no calvary bringing vehicles – indeed, there were no cars at all because I had no idea where mine was.

And it wasn’t a pivotal moment on a worldwide reality TV show – or even covered by the local media. Good thing, because as the picture indicates, I look a whole lot worse for wear this year.

AVALANCHE UPDATE: Evacuees allowed to collect belongings from 3-6 p.m. Thursday as city grapples with housing solution

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Residents of 55 evacuated apartments and houses who suddenly found themselves homeless for the long-term Wednesday night will be allowed back into their homes between 3 and 6 p.m. to retrieve belongings, according to The Governor of Svalbard. There will also be additional opportunities at a time to be determined.

The question for many is where they’ll be moving those belongings to.

AVALANCHE UPDATE: Governor recommends 13 residential buildings near hillside be abandoned long-term or permanently

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The long-term or permanent evacuation of 13 residential buildings closest to the mountain where two devastating avalanches have occurred in the past 14 months was recommended Wednesday by The Governor of Svalbard. The decision is for practical purposes effective immediately since the buildings were already evacuated after a landslide in the area Tuesday.

AVALANCHE UPDATE: Many residents allowed to return home Wednesday night; evacuation of homes closest to mountainside continues indefinitely

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Many of the more than 200 residents evacuated from 92 homes at midday Tuesday following an avalanche that destroyed two apartment buildings on Vei 228 are being allowed to return home Wednesday night following a lengthy expert assessment of snow conditions, according to The Governor of Svalbard.

AVALANCHE UPDATE: NVE experts conducting snow checks throughout Wednesday; public update meeting at 8 p.m.

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Update (2:34 p.m.): Svalbard Gov. Kjerstin Askholt said NVE experts are expected to conduct their snow assessment work until 6 p.m., after which the local emergency council will meet to determine if the evacuation order will be extended. She said it is possible the decision will be announced before the 8 p.m. public meeting at Kulturhuset.

Original story: Avalanche experts with the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) began assessing the snowpack on Sukkertoppen by helicopter and foot at midday Wednesday to determine the risk of further avalanches after the one that destroyed two apartment buildings Tuesday morning. A public meeting to update the situation is scheduled at 8 p.m. at Kulturhuset.

WARNING SIGNS: Another major avalanche shatters people’s faith in official alert system as well as homes

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Exasperating as the multiple widespread evacuations were, there was a general level of support and understanding for the “better safe than sorry” policy of local leaders. Now that’s been shaken up as much as residents’ nerves were following an avalanche 18 months ago that started it all.

AVALANCHE UPDATE: Two avalanches block road to Mine 7; NVE sets Level Three risk level, recommends against travel

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Two avalanches on the upper side of the road up to the Mine 7 on Wednesday morning are blocking it, according to Per Nilssen, mining manager for Store Norske.

Plowing of the road is underway, according to a statement released by The Governor of Svalbard at 8:15 a.m. Nilssen told the governor’s office the mountainside will also be examined to determine the threat of additional avalanches before the road is plowed all the way to the mine.

ALERT: AVALANCHE DESTROYS TWO APARTMENT BUILDINGS ON VEI 228; PART OF LIA EVACUATED

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(This story will be updated continuously. Main article follows updates.)

Update (10:30 p.m.): Emergency officials apologized and several Longyearbyen residents expressed skepticism about local avalanche-warning system at a public meeting Tuesday night at Kulturhuset. Details have been added to the main article below.

Update (6:52 p.m.): Residents of most evacuated homes will be allowed into them to retrieve critical belongings. This does not apply to those in the top row of buildings on Vei 226 and Vei 222. Those interested need to meet police officials from the governor’s office, who are overseeing the entries, at 9 p.m. at Kulturhuset.

Update (6:30 p.m.): Svalbardbutikken open until 10 p.m. tonight. For those still needing housing, the evacuation center at Kuturhuset will close at 10 p.m. Those needing emergency help overnight can call 9890 5338.

Update (5:55 p.m.): Public meeting (in Norwegian) at 8 p.m. tonight at Kulturhuset to discuss the avalanche. Officials representing The Governor of Svalbard, the city, Svalbard Church, the Longyearbyen Red Cross and NVE will provide updates. The meeting is open to the media, but there will be time allocated for residents to ask questions without reporters present. The meeting is expected to last about one hour.

Update (5:30 p.m.): City officials say it is still unknown whether Svalbardhallen will be made available as an overnight shelter for evacuees unable to find housing. The city is urging people to find their own housing, but those without should notify the evacuation center at Kulturhuset (tel. 9890 5338). Also, icepeople.net has been down most of the day due to crashes related to heavy traffic. I am posting updates of this article on my Facebook page in case of another crash.