Large swaths of Iceland still without power Wednesday after winter megastorm

University of Iceland sociology student Muhammed Emin Kizilkaya out in Iceland’s megastorm this week. (Courtesy Muhammed Emin Kizilkaya)
Much of northern and eastern Iceland remained without power Wednesday afternoon after a winter storm raged across the country this week prompting a red alert for the first time since the colour system was implemented in 2017.

“It’s been years since we’ve had such widespread impact from weather,” Birta Kristinsdottir, a forecaster at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, said in a phone interview.

Kristinsdottir said winter storms are common in Iceland in December, and that although no nation-wide weather records were broken on Tuesday, the wind speeds and impacts across the country still set this storm apart.

“There were hurricane force winds in many places and we had about 150 weather stations that had winds of above 30 metres per second,” she said.

The strongest wind speed measured was 58.2 meters per second in the southwestern part of the country.

Feature Interview
Muhammed Emin Kizilkaya in Reykjavik, Iceland a few days prior to Tuesday’s storm. (Courtesy Muhammed Emin Kizilkaya)

Muhammed Emin Kizilkaya, a Danish student currently studying in Iceland, talks us through Tuesday’s megastorm, surviving Iceland’s freak weather and how his stormchasing hobby has become an obsession:

Kristinsdottir said the freak weather can partly be explained by an unusually deep low and temperatures that were slightly above freezing.

Sleet along the coast in the North also caused electrical infrastructure to ice up.

“They just fell like dominoes,” she said. “That was unusual, how big of an impact the storm made.”

The red weather warning expired in Iceland at noon on Wednesday.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: What are the northern lights?, CBC News

Finland: Finland to headquarter Europe’s new atmospheric research center, Yle News

Greenland: Evidence of powerful solar storm which occurred 2,600 years ago found in Greenland ice, CBC News

Norway: NASA and Norway to develop observation station in Arctic, The Independent Barents Obsever

Russia: Scientists surprised to discover meteor exploded over Bering Sea in December, CBC News

Sweden: Meteorite from Arctic Sweden fetches thousands at auction, Radio Sweden

United States: New map shows what Bering land bridge looked like 18,000 years ago, CBC New

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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