ANOTHER EVACUATION EXTENSION, ANOTHER AVALANCHE: Mountainside of Nybyen off-limits for another week; risk-level for area drops, but avalanches still happening


An evacuation of the mountainside buildings and traffic ban on the snow trail in Nybyen was extended for a third week on Thursday afternoon by The Governor of Svalbard, just a few hours before the latest of numerous avalanches in recent weeks was observed in the well-traveled valley of Fardalen southeast of Longyearbyen.

Nobody was caught in the avalanche and the risk-level for the entire region has been lowed to Level Two (“Moderate”) as of Thursday. The Nybyen evacuation was ordered when there was a Level Four risk level – one below the maximum – due to snow and wind that resulted in cornices up to seven-meters high on the mountains at the south end of town.

That hanging snow still poses sufficient risk to extend the evacuation until at least next Thursday, the governor announced after a meeting with city officials and experts from the Norwegian Water Resources Energy Directorate.

“There is still a danger that the cornices at the top of Gruvefjellet may loosen and fall down,” a statement notes.

Also, “after the traffic ban was introduced, there are still some who are crossing the barriers and driving snowscooter through the area. Violation of the traffic ban can lead to punitive reactions from the governor.”

City officials put up barricades on the snow trail several days ago after fresh tracks were discovered.

The avalanche in Fardalen was reported at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, the governor stated, adding “we ask people who travel in the terrain to be careful and not seek out avalanche-prone areas.”

A Level Two risk level is forecast for the region through Sunday.

“Conditions are dangerous,” the directorate’s website notes. “Be careful in lee areas with wind deposited snow, typically behind ridges, ribs and in gullies. Be aware of a persistent weak layer buried by windslabs. Remote triggering is possible. Watch out for cornice-breaks.”