Icelandic Language Blog

Reykjavík, one week in pictures: storm, snowstorm, ash fall. Posted by on Mar 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

Last week really gave us a proper taste of Icelandic weather at its worst! Starting with a storm on Monday and growing into a snowstorm that began on Wednesday morning, ending up with an ash fall. The snowing was no ordinary kind either. We got so much snow that the schools were closed and guess how common that is in Iceland? Answer is: extremely uncommon. Schools here just don’t close for weather unless we’re expecting a hurricane and even then it has to be a pretty wild hurricane.

I’ll start out by apologizing for failing to make last Wednesday’s blog post, though. I was stupid enough to wander out on Monday evening, right into the storm, with less than suitable amount of clothing and already feeling a bit under the weather, and yes I got very ill. I would say I deserved to! At the moment I’m all better again but I still haven’t got my voice 100% back so alas, the audio post I was planning for this blog post has to wait a bit – I hope to get to it on the next Wednesday, but let’s look at the highlights of last week instead.


The day started out as any day on Iceland, with nothing out of ordinary, but by afternoon the wind picked up. I had a choir practice in the evening (fun fact: there seems to be a disproportionate amount of choirs in Iceland in comparison to the amount of population, and the general quality of them is quite good!) so I just threw on a sweater, thinking it would suffice like it so often does. Icelandic wool makes for almost water- and windproof clothing.

However, that’s when the weather is normal. What was waiting for me outside was this.

In Breiðholt where I live the wind was still negotiable but the downtown area is near the sea, with wind force considerably worse. I had to lean against it even to stay still and then try to run for it between the gusts. At one point the wind threw me sideways off my feet and I seriously considered just trying to make it for the nearest cover and calling help. Still, as the only thing I hurt falling down was my pride I made up my mind to just head on and eventually I somehow did get to the choir practice, mostly ok but thoroughly frozen.


Eight o´clock a.m.

Noon. It was still snowing outside for several hours after this but by now I didn’t even try climbing over all that snow.

Not surprisingly at all I woke up feeling less than good and sent an sms to a classmate about how I wasn’t going to go to the lecture that morning, to which she replied she was going to skip it herself because of the weather.

What you’ll see in the photos is what was going on outside. Thank goodness our front door opens inwards!

I draped some clothes on because ill or not I wasn’t going to NOT photograph this. This may have been a big mistake because after I came back in I had lost my voice almost completely, but hey, I would not have wanted to miss this chance for the world!*

Around 8.00 a.m. at the front door.

Turned out that not going to the lecture had been a wise choice, and that it would have been so even if I had been in full health. Breiðholt got snowed on so thoroughly that it was near impossible to get out of the house with snow piled at our door all the way to the thighs. The snow cleaning units had to put all their work into keeping the main roads open, and as a result the residential areas were snowed shut for most of the day so there would have been no way of driving through all the snow, let alone walking to and from the bus stop. Had I gone out I would have been lucky to get to the uni and even luckier to manage to return home…

The view from the window.

By nine o’clock the buses had stopped running outside of the  Capital city area and by half past the east Reykjavík as well, some schools were already closing and the police were issuing pleas for people to stay indoors and avoid going out. By midday this changed into a warning to not wander out at any cost, and that the children that were at the schools that had stayed open in the morning would have to wait for the storm to be over: driving over to fetch them was forbidden. This might sound a bit heartless but it was very necessary, because with the roads as they were the last thing anyone wanted was for people to cause accidents, get stuck in the snow etc. The traffic jams were already several hours long and there was a 20 cars collision on one of the roads.

Goodbye grill, I miss you. ;^;

Here are some videos at the webpage of the Morgunblaðið, or Mbl.

Enn víða vonskuveður. (= Still bad weather far and wide) A quick look at the weather in the south and south-west plus recommendations of not attempting to travel by car.

Vandræðin og veðrið kom á óvart. (= The problems and the weather came as a surprise.) Björgunarsveitinn, the voluntary emergency units, had their hands full all day. Keep an eye on the uniforms, it’s helpful to know what your potential saviours look like. Also see the locals just trudging through the weather like it’s no big deal.

Annasamasti dagur frá upphafi. (= Busiest day from the start) Tells about the snowstorm from the point of view of á, the people who help those that end up in car accidents.

News of Iceland gives an overview of the storm in English.

And don’t miss this – Mbl has collected all of their storm news on one page! You can go click on the links for amazing photographs and news (all in Icelandic, but translating texts is a wonderful way of learning vocabulary). Who was born in an ambulance during the storm? What happened with air traffic? What about the car that got stuck after it drove off the road and was left on the spot for overnight, it was vandalized but how?

The next day I was in for an even bigger surprise. All that snow of the previous day was now with a filthy-looking, brownish gray layer on top. By asking around I quickly found out that this was all because the storm winds had picked up the ash of the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption and carried it, once again, all over Reykjavík. You heard right, it’s now the year 2013 and the ash is still lying on the ground just waiting to be picked up and carried around by the wind.

The car… 

As the ash very quickly damages the paint on the cars, it has to be washed off ASAP. You can tell when an ash fall has happened by everyone suddenly hosing down their cars. The ash is  made of tiny particles that are very sharp, so scrubbing the car would just result in scratching it.

A close-up of the snow and the mess the ash creates. The only thing to do is to wash it off with lots of water as soon as the weather clears up. Btw if this is not bad enough remember that it’s poisonous.

Previous blog posts on volcanoes and their effect on the daily life in Iceland:

Greetings from the Grímsvatn volcano.

When the volcanoes wake up.


*All photographing of Hulda’s blog entries is done by an idiot with a low regard to her health and safety, do not try this at home.

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About the Author: hulda

Hi, I'm Hulda, originally Finnish but now living in the suburbs of Reykjavík. I'm here to help you in any way I can if you're considering learning Icelandic. Nice to meet you!