Update 3:45 p.m.: Emergency officials are scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. Monday to determine if some areas should be closed and/or evacuated, according to a statement issued by The Governor of Svalbard. Vei 300 between Huset and the old museum, where the largest of last month’s landslides occurred, will be closed as of Monday morning.
Original story: A storm is expected to bring up to 50 millimeters of rain to Longyearbyen and up to 100 millimeters of precipiation in some surrounding mountains during a 24-hour period Monday and Tuesday, resulting in a significant risk of landslides and other hazards, according to the Norwegian Meteorological Institute.
Such a storm would be three times as much rain that fell in Longyearbyen (and six times as much in the mountains) during the most intense period of a storm in mid-October that caused the worst landslides in more than 40 years. Temperatures have seldom dipped below freezing since then and experts have stated the area’s saturated soil already presents significant risks.
Steady rain is expected to fall beginning at about midnight Monday, with the heaviest accumulation between 6 p.m. Monday and 6 a.m. Tuesday. Total accumulation in Longyearbyen is expected to be 30 to 50 millimeters during the heaviest 24 hours of rainfall. Winds are expected to reach speeds of more than 100 kilometers an hour. Another storm resulting is about 12 millimeters of rain is expected to hit Tuesday night and most of Wednesday.
The Governor of Svalbard met Sunday afternoon with other local emergency officials to discuss preparations for the storm, according to NRK. Another meeting is scheduled at 11 a.m. Monday where evacuating areas of town will be considered.
Areas where significant landslides, flooding and debris flows occurred during October’s storm including Longyeardalen, the mountains surrounding Svalbard Airport, along the road into Bjørndalen and along the road into Adventdalen, according to a report issued by The University Centre in Svalbard. Much of Nybyen is also considered susceptible to landslides.
Ole Humlum, an adjunct professor of physical geography at The University Centre in Svalbard, said during a presentation last month that an accumulation rate of two millimeters an hour is sufficient to trigger landslides. The first coming storm is expected to result in rainfall that heavy between noon on Monday and 6 a.m. Tuesday.
“When it windy and rainy there is no reason to take a walk in the mountains unless you have to,” he said during the presentation.
Other safety tips from Humlum:
• If caught in a rainstorm, check to see where landslides may have already occurred since there is likely to be less hazardous material still contained there.
• Avoid gullies as much as possible since falling debris will be redirected there.
• Be wary of fine-grain sediment, which is often covered with vegetation.
• Pause long enough to think, then act if you hear a noise. “Take a look at it for one to three seconds, quite calm, and then decide which direction to run.”