Iceland getting back to normal after being savaged by freak winter storm

An undated photo from the Icelandic Red Cross taken prior to the December 10 storm. In all, the organization opened eight emergency shelters to help people affected by the storm. (Courtesy Icelandic Red Cross)
Iceland is getting back to normal after being savaged by a freak winter storm last week, with the Icelandic Red Cross closing their last emergency shelter in Tjörnes, a peninsula in the country’s northeast.

The shelter closed Sunday after electricity in the region was restored.

Huge swaths of Iceland in the North and East had the power knocked out on December 10 after a winter storm raged across the country.

Sleet along the coast in the North also caused electrical infrastructure to ice up, causing it to  “…go down like dominoes” according to one Icelander interviewed by Eye on the Arctic last week. 

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

Situation still unstable in Hvammsstangi
Icelandic Red Cross volunteers on a training exercise in this undated photo. (Courtesy Icelandic Red Cross)

In all, the Icelandic Red Cross opened eight emergency shelters across the country.

Volunteers met with people there, provided psychosocial support and checked if people in farms were okay,” Brynhildur Bolladottir, the Icelandic Red Cross’s communications manager told Eye on the Arctic in an email exchange on Monday.

“At most emergency shelters people only came for a cup of coffee, warmth and chat.”

An exception was in Dalvik, a village of around 1400 people in northern Iceland, where 50 people ended up staying in an emergency shelter for two nights when it became too cold to stay in their homes after the power went down, Bolladottir said.

An Icelandic Red Cross vehicle in an undated photo taken before the December 10 storm. The organization said their emergency shelters offered everything from emotional support to refuge for people without electricity in their homes. (Courtesy Icelandic Red Cross)

As of Monday afternoon local time, electricity still remained unstable in Hvammsstangi, a village of around 582 people in northeastern Iceland. 

Bolladottir said the Icelandic Red Cross was surveying the situation and was prepared to reopen emergency shelters if necessary. 

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

Iceland: Large swaths of Iceland still without power Wednesday after winter megastorm, Eye on the Arctic

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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