Sweden counts cost of winter snowfalls

Swedish municipalities are struggling to balance budgets as the cost of keeping streets and buildings free of snow continues to escalate as the winter keeps its hold on the country, according to a survey by the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

Sweden counts cost of winter snowfalls

The Swedish meteorological agency, SMHI, has forecast more snowfalls for the coming weeks in most parts of the country as the coldest winter in memory continues to keep the whole of Sweden blanketed in white.

The costs for snow clearance has continued to climb as heavy new year snowfalls continue well into February with many of Sweden’s municipalities already exhausting allocated funds, according to the newspaper.

Malmö, Gotland, Halmstad and Kalmar have already used up their budgets, a further five already know that will overspend, and in a further 12 there is an overhanging risk of a deficit which will need to be carried over to budgets for 2011.

Councils will also be forced to cut back on road maintenance during the summer, with some warning of an impact on traffic security.

Malmö council, which has already spent 20 million kronor ($2.77 million), two million kronor more than budgeted, has advised that road painting and street-lighting is likely to be cutback during the summer to compensate.

Just as the harsh winter takes its toll on Sweden’s roads, municipalities may also be obliged to cut back on asphalting and reparation – at a time when it will be most needed.

“This is not good as it is often a question of safety. We know that it will not only affect asphalting; measures to reduce traffic speeds, and improve safety at pedestrian crossings, may also be delayed,” said Jan Sandberg at The National Society for Road Safety (NTF) to DN.

The railways and train services have also been a bone of contention for Swedes this winter with cancelled trains and widespread delays as a result of the sustained cold temperatures and snow.

Representatives for national rail operator SJ and the Swedish Rail Administration (Banverket) have on Thursday been called in to the parliament to account for the sub-standard service.

December was the worst month for delays in 15 years, according to Rail Administration statistics. Continued snow and ice indicate that problems are set to persist for Sweden’s hard hit commuters.

SMHI has forecast a further decimetre of snow in across Götaland and the Stockholm area on Thursday and Friday.

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Floods as Swedish cities get two months of rain in 24 hours

Large areas of Sweden saw extreme levels of rain over the weekend, with the city of Linköping receiving more than 100mm of rain in 24 hours, twice as it usually receives in the whole of August. 

Floods as Swedish cities get two months of rain in 24 hours

According to Swedish weather forecaster SMHI, the Linköping-Malmslätt area received 96mm between Saturday night at 8am on Sunday morning. The area normally received between 60mm and 70mm in August as a whole. 

“There was such an absurd amount of rain that the data was at first rejected by our system,” Therese Fougman, a meteorologist at the forecaster, told Sweden’s TT newswire. “It is continuing to rain during the day, and it is lying in a band over Östergötland, Sörmland och further up towards Uppland, predicting there would be a further 40mm to 50mm in the next 12 hours. 

The downpours have led to flooding in several areas, and caused traffic problem with cars at risk of aquaplaning on roads such as the E18, which were covered in a thick layer of water. 

Lennart Ågren, who was the duty leader of rescue services in Östra Götaland, told TT on Sunday afternoon that rescuers had been called out to several floods in Linköping and Mantorp. 

“There were streets under water, and water was running into properties so we had to throw all our resources at it for several hours,” he said. 

In Jönköping, rescue services were called out to flooding at a school and in other places, while in Växjö, lightening hit close to the place where a student party was being held at the local university campus. 

In Linköping, rescue services told TT that they had been called out 30 times. “We’ve been stretched but have managed to handle it,” said Pedher Helmer, who was in charge of rescue services in Östergötland over the weekend. 

The heavy rain is expected to move to Blekinge, Skåne, Öland and Gotland over the coming days, with a risk for flooding.