As snow continues to fall, Eastern Finland enters second week without power

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Heavy snow has caused big problems for electricity providers in Kainuu. (Jarmo Nuotio/Yle)
Heavy snow in the Kainuu region of northern Finland has caused rolling power cuts for a week now, with new power line damage being reported all the time. Heavy snow cover remains a problem, with trees falling at regular intervals since New Year—and thereby cutting power lines.

As of Thursday afternoon some 1,000 households were without electricity in the Kainuu region. The worst-affected customers had been without power for up to five days, with energy firms from across the country scrambling to offer help in restoring supply.

On Thursday morning around a hundred workers were in the field trying to fix faults as they were reported. Power firm Loiste said that they were at the mercy of the weather.

More snowfall expected

“Finland is on a knife-edge,” said Vilho Hartikainen, Loiste’s head of network management. “Now we fear snowfall forecast for tomorrow evening. Last time this happened thousands of people were left without power. We’re at the mercy of the weather. If it doesn’t get milder, then the snow burden on trees isn’t going anywhere. The situation will continue so long as there is this snow cover.”

As of Thursday, there was 79 centimetres of snow cover in Hyrynsalmi, which is one of the worst-hit municipalities.

As there is no indication that weather conditions are about to ease, the local rescue services were planning to request assistance from the Defence Forces.

“The idea of the request is to obtain vehicles to help us move on this challenging terrain,” said Jani Kareinen of the local emergency services. “Then we’ll be able to map out the areas and base stations.”

The last week has been busier than usual for the emergency services, with around 50 call-outs related to the heavy snow. Most calls were related to clearing trees that had fallen on roads and highways.

Prepare for more blackouts

Authorities are advising those in the affected areas to brace for power cuts by stocking up on batteries for radios and torches, keeping phones charged, and storing drinking water.

The local municipal headquarters in Hyrynsalmi have been used by locals looking for a place to shower, charge phones and take a break, but nobody has yet required emergency accommodation. Some 300 households have no power, but in cases where people have moved they have preferred to stay with relatives or friends.

Vulnerable older people have been taken to stay at the local health centre.

Power firms say they have received many offers of help from locals, however they say the most effective assistance is in reporting faults rather than lending snow mobiles or other vehicles. Mobile phone networks have also been down in the Ylä-Kainuu area, with even emergency 112 calls disrupted.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Who really built Canada’s first highway to the Arctic Ocean?, Blog by Mia Bennett

Finland: Helsinki Airport warns passengers of snowstorm delays, Yle News

Sweden: Greens demand total ban on studded tires in Sweden, Radio Sweden

Russia: Challenges ahead for electric car chargers along Europe’s northernmost highway, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Remote Alaska community to receive state money after Arctic mega-storm, Alaska Dispatch News

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