Storm warning: ‘Avoid driving if you can’

Storms, snow falls and road chaos have been forecast for Sunday evening and Monday by meteorological agency SMHI. Motorists are advised to avoid driving if they can.

Storm warning: 'Avoid driving if you can'

SMHI has issued a category two storm warning and has forecast snow falls of 20 centimetres over Sunday night and into Monday.

“Storm gusts can occur along the coasts and average winds could reach up to 20 metres per second. This means that snow can blow into drifts and create major problems,” said Anna Östman at SMHI.

“Gotland and the west coast will see temperatures rise above zero, but the general picture is below-zero temperatures for the whole country,” said Anna Österman at SMHI.

Sunday is expected to offer few problems for drivers but after the calm comes the storm.

“We have an area of low pressure over the Baltic which on Sunday night will mean a build up of strong winds over the sea and bring with it more snow.”

“Out to sea the winds could reach gale force”

The snow falls and strong winds will be mostly in coastal areas along the Baltic sea and all the way up to the northern parts of the Gulf of Bothnia.

A large part of Sweden is currently covered in snow and even the far south of the country has seen temperatures fall below zero. The roads are accordingly treacherous and a woman is reported to have been killed in southern Sweden on Saturday as she lost control of her car.

The 49-year-old woman died in Hovmantorp, outside of Växjö in southern Sweden, when her car went into a skid, crossed into the oncoming lane, and hit another car head on. She was the mother of two small children.

Car drivers across the south battled icy conditions as temperatures plunged to below freezing on Friday. A total of 85 cars veered off the treacherous roads in Skåne during the course of the day.

By Saturday the icy conditions had moved north to plague drivers on Öland, Gotland and around Stockholm. Reports came in from other areas of the country of icy conditions and a swathe of car accidents.

While Sunday is expected to be relatively calm the low temperatures mean that the snow that has already fallen will remain on the ground.

The wintry conditions are set to hold until at least the middle of next week.

“On Wednesday, or maybe Thursday, temperatures will edge upwards and perhaps melt some of the snow,” Österman said.


VIDEO: Meet the rooftop snow clearers keeping Stockholm safe

Stockholm's snow-topped buildings may look charming, but heavy snowfall can be dangerous. An army of 'sweepers' take to the city's rooftops to clear them of snow in a carefully managed operation.

VIDEO: Meet the rooftop snow clearers keeping Stockholm safe
Rooftop snow cleaner Andrei Pilan clears buildings in Stockholm's picturesque old town. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

Teetering on the edge of a black tin roof ten metres (33 feet) above ground, Andrei Plian and Alex Lupu clear a thick white blanket of snow off a building in Stockholm's historic Gamla Stan (Old Town), while their colleague on the street below keeps watch to warn pedestrians passing by.

While to many the job would be vertigo-inducing, for Plian and Lupu – two roofers by trade – it gives them a chance to admire the view.

“Being here on the roof and looking up at the sky, you feel that freedom,” Plian tells AFP, seemingly ignoring the biting subzero chill.

Secured with ropes, carabiners and a safety harness, he climbs the few remaining steps on a ladder attached to the roof and breaks the serene quiet of the sunny February morning with a clank as his shovel hits the tin roof.

Click on video below to watch:

The constant clearing of snow from the city's roofs is first and foremost done for “the safety of the people”, but also to maintain the buildings, many of which are hundreds of years old.

“If there is too much snow on the roof it is too heavy for it so you have to take it off,” the 36-year-old says

A ten-year roofing veteran, he moves around fluidly and with confidence. Getting the job done quickly is key as more roofs are waiting, but safety remains a top priority.

“Every time you have to think about safety, it's the number one rule. You don't have room for a mistake here. If you make one mistake it could be your last,” Plian says.

In early February, another snow clearer was seriously injured while clearing a roof in the northern Swedish town of Umeå, with initial findings showing he wasn't wearing his safety harness.

Under Swedish law, property owners are responsible for clearing snow and ice off their buildings if it threatens to fall and injure someone, but accidents are rare.

“As far as I can remember there has only been two deaths in the last 20-30 years or so,” Staffan Moberg, spokesman for the insurer industry group Svensk Försäkring, told AFP.

In one case in 2002, a 14-year-old died after being struck by a large block of ice that broke off a building on Stockholm's main shopping street Drottninggatan.

Moberg added that they don't keep statistics on incidents since they are rarely requested, and while accidents do happen on occasion, “the consequences are mostly not lethal and very seldom even severe”.

But after every fresh snowfall, signs immediately sprout up on sidewalks and facades warning passers-by of the risk of falling snow and ice, awaiting the arrival of the “snowploughs” in the sky.

While Plian and Lupu are busy at work on the roof above, Fredrik Ericsson is tasked with ensuring the safety of pedestrians down below.

Using a high-pitched whistle, he signals their comings and goings: when he blows his whistle once the shovelling stops to let people pass, and two whistles signals the all-clear to resume work.

Ericsson concedes that it can be a tricky task as people are often oblivious, sometimes wilfully, to the work going on.

“They don't show that much respect, they just walk past, so I have to stop and yell at them,” he explains. “They don't see the danger.”

By AFP's Helene Dauschy