Finnish Lapland braces for flood peaks this weekend

Spring flooding in Pello, Finnish Lapland, on 19 May 2023, showing a red house that was partly flooded. (Tiinamaija Rantamartti / Yle)

Lapland rescue services have been busy since Thursday evening due to the Tornio River flood situation.

Water levels continued to rise in various parts of Finnish Lapland on Friday as the spring thaw swelled rivers.

In Pello and Kolari, water levels were approaching all-time record levels. The Tornio River’s water level was rising by 2-3 centimetres per hour.

In the centre of Pello, the rescue service is protecting five buildings, said fire chief Heikki Piirainen.

The spring floods of Tornio, Muonio and Ounas rivers are expected to peak within the next few days. Along the Ounas River, water has flowed onto roads in some places, nearly halting traffic between the villages of Tepasto and Köngäs in Kittilä, for instance.

Along the Tornio River, which marks the Finnish-Swedish border, water has started to rise threateningly close to buildings. On Friday officials said that flooding threatened houses in Pello and holiday homes in Kolari.

Lapland rescue services were called to these areas late on Thursday evening to protect settlements and were kept busy throughout the night. Residents have not yet had to fully evacuate the buildings, though.

According to fire marshal Matti Salmi, the water has risen very close to the buildings, but they have been protected. However, the situation may change, as the flood peak is expected this weekend.

Rescue service officials urged people to independently prepare to protect their properties from flood waters in high-risk areas.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Oldest town in Yukon almost wiped out by ice jams and flooding, CBC News

Finland: Flooding in Finland is getting worse, new climate report says, Yle News

Sweden: Heavier rainfall will increase risk of landslides and flooding in Sweden, Radio Sweden.

United States: Ice jams, rapid snowmelt flood homes, businesses and roads across Alaska, The Associated Press

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