Since Norway is expecting a month-long cold snap, now is a good time to scan the freezing headlines. While snowfall has not been spectacular this winter, the chill has been, and few things are as fascinating as watching boiling water freeze before it hits the ground.
Before having a look at how to entertain yourself when the thermometer drops below the -40C mark, a few more mundane reports. It has been cold enough in places just around -20C to freeze the water in firefighters’ hoses, and everyday life is being disrupted in a variety of ways.
Schools scattered around the country sent students home after failing to keep classroom temperatures at tolerable level, with the worst figure I saw being 7.5C, shockingly below normal room temperature of 21C, and so cold that even sitting in outdoor gear inside isn’t enough to maintain concentration.
Transport was completely unreliable as trains broke down in a potpourri of failure. Switches and points froze and failed, signal lights malfunctioned, rails split and tracks contracted. Tunnels caused constant problems as melting occurred in the temporarily warmer conditions and then instantly turned to blue ice after emerging again into the elements. In Trondheim a train was delayed after … all the water in the toilet car froze solid.
When trains go bad, and they do far too often – the winter troubles were an excuse to call national rail officials in to an emergency meeting to discuss the increasingly unreliable state of Norway’s service – buses are usually brought in to shuttle stranded travelers and commuters. But a fleet of 45 new Oslo buses were knocked out of service when oil used to control the wheels froze, which in turn destroyed a steering component. This took far longer than expected, and reserve parts were not available due to ongoing Orthodox Christmas celebrations in Poland.
In Fredrikstad, cemetery workers had to start thawing frozen ground 24 hours before needing to dig, in order to be able to penetrate the soil. And speaking of death and Fredrikstad, neighbor city Sarpsborg reported what was believed to be the country’s first fatality by freezing, and it was a spooky case.
In roughly -20C temperatures, an apparently healthy 40-year-old man was found dead on a public footpath, newspaper Sarpsborg Arbeiderblad reported. He was even wearing a down jacket, though did not have a hat or gloves, and had only thin basketball sneakers on his feet. Police believe the man was on his way home a few kilometers away from where he was found. He had recently returned from a long stint abroad – and perhaps simply forgot what the Norwegian winter is capable of?
While the high death toll in other parts of Europe reveals a combination of exposed homeless and unfamiliarity with biting cold, Norway has rallied against the return of aptly arctic weather. The anti-immigrant populist Progress Party holds the Oslo city council office for welfare and social services, and councilor Sylvi Listhaug tossed aside usual party policy as the big freeze seized the capital.
The city expanded its emergency shelter service for the homeless, usually made up chiefly of drug addicts, to extend an offer to other exposed groups, such as illegal immigrants. “We can’t have people dying in the winter cold on our conscience,” Listhaug told Aftenposten.no, before scoring political points: “This is a purely interim solution now in the cold. The City of Oslo cannot bear the long-term costs of an immigration policy that is completely out of control.”
Lovely Røros maintained its reputation for bitterly cold winter lows, dropping under -40C and setting the scene for this very popular video clip that appeared on Aftenposten’s web site. I didn’t think hot liquid would do this until it got even colder, but have a look.