Icelandic Language Blog

The great Reykjavík snowcalypse. Posted by on Dec 3, 2015 in Icelandic culture, Icelandic customs

The snow wanted a hug, so…

Snow isn’t a stranger to Reykjavík, much less Iceland in general, but sometimes there’s just way too much of it. I’ve been reminded of this ever since Tuesday when it all began with a massive, day-long snowstorm, and when Iceland has a snowstorm we’re not talking about 10cm with the whole country closed. No, we’re currently having 42cm (or possibly more since it snowed a bit more last night and the figure is from yesterday) with nothing closed, even the buses ran almost throughout the ordeal with only a few cancellations on routes that went outside Reykjavík. This is a record amount of snow for December in the recent years and it’s only December 3rd, the previous record was measured at the end half of the month! To give some idea, the last time Reykjavík had more snow in December was in the 30’s.

So, what are you supposed to do if you’re hit by a snow storm while staying in Iceland? This is what.

Snowy Hlemmur bus station.

Keep an eye on weather forecast

The forecast gives a good idea just how dire the situation is going to be. It may include warnings on certain areas where the roads are icier than others, in which case it’s smart to avoid them altogether unless you’re used to ice that can make your car drift even with winter tires on. If you have school children there’s always a chance that schools recommend staying at home instead because going to school may be hazardous. Note though that workplaces may still expect you to show up as normal (although obviously no one is going to give you grief for being late due to traffic).

Take the bus

Yes, it’s not a comfortable option and likely you’ll be late, stuck in traffic and crammed in with countless disgruntled locals. It’s still a better idea than getting stuck in a small car on a patch of ice, driving off the road or crashing into a snow bank. The Björgunarsveitinn, voluntary rescue units, will be working a long day helping people out in exactly these situations but there’s a limited amount of them and – like mentioned – they’ll be needed everywhere. There’s no guarantee your call can be immediately answered.

Yes, this is enough snow for me.

Dress up well, keep warm

Layering is the key, as is wearing natural fiber. Cotton and especially wool are the go-to materials, remember a hat, wool socks and possibly mittens (gloves only make your fingers colder). A scarf will be a necessity not only for warmth but also to stop the wind blowing your collar full of snow. Boots beat shoes but even then there’s a chance of thigh-deep snow piles. Another important thing is to have a dry change of clothes waiting for you back home; warm water is cheaper than soap in Iceland so you can first thaw yourself in a hot shower for as long as you like, change into dry, warm clothes and make yourself a cup of tea/coffee/hot chocolate/mulled wine.

If you don’t have to leave the house, stay in

Just have a day off. Read a book you’ve been meaning to read for ages, catch up with household chores, go shovel snow off the driveway every now and then to keep it open, and don’t forget to figure out which pile includes your car and dig it out. Remember to also take lots of photos and post them on FB just in case your Icelandic friends have somehow missed the fact that there’s a lot of snow everywhere now. In no situation ever leave the city. Seriously. First of all, nothing there is important enough to risk your health and at worst possibility your life. Secondly you may not even be able to, as roads are often closed when the weather gets too bad. Thirdly it’ll be extra difficult for help to find you should you need some, and just consider how hard the Björgunarsveitinn is already working… don’t do it to them.

Downtown with a holiday look!

Follow the situation for all kinds of useful information on staying alive in Iceland (link).
Forsíða veðurstófu Íslands, the weather forecasts (link).
Vegagerðin, road conditions, also lists which roads are closed and for what reason (link).
News sites here and here.


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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!