The morning headlines describing the ensuing ‘snow chaos’ were predictable if a little bizarre in a nation where a touch of the white stuff in November is hardly unexpected.
By 5pm on Thursday 14,000 households were still without electricity. In the south of the country the power company Sydkraft said that 4,000 customers in Blekinge were cut off while Skåne and Småland Electricity were trying to reconnect lines to 3,000 of their customers. Another company, Vattenfalls, said 6,000 of its customers were cut off in the Norrtälje, Knivsta and Uppsala regions.
SAS reported that 61 flights from and within Sweden were grounded and SJ, the Swedish rail company, said trains in Skåne and Småland were being delayed “by a few hours”.
But the worst problems were on the roads.
“It has been really chaotic,” said Kenneth Johannesson, a police officer on night duty in Örebro, where snow blocked the main E18 road in several places.
“It’s the same problem every year,” Johannesson told TT. It’s unbelievable that the Roads Agency is so unprepared for this despite the fact that we’ve been expecting bad weather for several days.”
According to the Swedish Meteorological Institute, SMHI, the heaviest falls so far have been in Västmanland, Uppland, Gästrikland and Hälsingland, with more snow expected across the country.
“Temperatures are falling everywhere,” he said to Aftonbladet. “At the weekend there will be small snow flurries over the Östersjön area and Gotland. In other places it will clear up but the temperature will probably remain below freezing.”
Samuelsson said that it will be a few days before the ground is clear again, and that means drivers can expect more chaos on the roads, particularly around the major cities.
“The first winter ice in the Stockholm region always creates chaos,” said Lennart Byman of Stockholm’s traffic police, and he advised Svenska Dagbladet’s readers to listen to the radio for the latest travel tips.
But you might be better off just looking out the window. Despite its investment in electronic roadside weather stations, the Roads Agency will not be flooding the airwaves with advice.
“We are restrictive with our warnings,” said the Agency’s Tony Strandberg. “We have to think twice when we go out with a warning.”
One reason for the annual November road chaos, according to SvD, is that drivers have not yet changed to winter tyres. By law, cars must use winter tyres between December 1st and March 31st, but Lennart Byman advised motorists not to wait any longer.
But they may not have any choice. Many tyre companies already have waiting lists of up to a week and the snowfall could extend that to two weeks.
“We’re full until next Tuesday,” said Jan-Erik Nordeberg at Hagström’s Tyres in Stockholm. “This weather has had a big effect on our workload but people are already too late.”
With a tyre change only taking five minutes and costing 300 crowns, for the tyre companies at least there’s no business like snow business.