STORM UPDATE: Avalanche danger at maximum possible level above 700 meters; cable car installations unstable


A severe rain and wind storm that has forced evacuation of dozens of homes in Longyearbyen early Monday afternoon due to the risk of landslides also means the risk of avalanches is at the highest possible level above 700 meters in west Spitsbergen, according to emergency officials.

In addition, several cable car installations in Longyearbyen are now considered a danger due to unstable foundations and exposure to high winds.

Both alerts were issued at about 4 p.m. by The Governor of Svalbard. The warnings are based on estimates of up to 5o millimeters of precipitation in Longyearbyen between midday Monday and midday Tuesday and up to 100 millimeters in coastal mountains, with snow above 450 to 500 meters.

The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate classifies the avalanche risk as level four, the highest used by the agency. It means conditions are highly unstable and significant snowslides are expected.

“The avalanche danger will remain at danger level four in the mountains also on Tuesday also, where the will be up to one meter of snow,” the agency wrote in an alert on its website.

Store Norske notified the governor about the danger to its historic cable car trestles.

“Several of the cable car trestles in Longyearbyen have varying degrees of impaired stability due to rot in the foundations,” a statement from the governor’s office notes. “In the event of very strong winds people are not encouraged to remain near these. Also, we remind people that it is forbidden to walk in abandoned mining sites.”