Heavy snowfall continues
Plane and train delays
Building caretakers were busy on Monday and Tuesday clearing snow from sidewalks in Helsinki. Meanwhile, the city’s snowploughs were on the move. In the centre alone, a total of 60 pieces of heavy snow-removing equipment were clearing the streets on Monday.
Snowfall was heaviest in eastern parts of Finland on Monday. The Helsinki region got approximately the same as the rest of the country on average.
At Helsinki-Vantaa Airport snow had to be removed from the two runways in use about once every hour.
“This has been the worst snowstorm this winter, but the planes have not yet got stuck in the drifts”, says supervisor Petri Nilsson of the aviation authority Finavia.
The thick snow caused numerous flight delays of up to three hours.
“The main reason is that flights from Europe have been late. This has affected the whole chain, when, after a flight from Brussels, the same plane is used to fly to Oulu, for instance”, explained Christer Haglund, information officer at Finnair.
Tomi Hannuksela, deputy chief of air traffic control said that no weather-based flight restrictions were needed at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport on Monday, but there have been restrictions at other European airports, forcing delays in departures from Helsinki to prevent overcrowding of air space at the other end.
The weather threatened to cause a major disruption to the Christmas plans of Brussels residents Guido De Pagie and Marie-Christine Wymeersch. The couple’s first flight was seriously delayed by the storms in Central Europe, and they missed their connecting flight.
At noon they were still not sure if they would be able to visit De Pagie’s son in Japan.
“If we don’t get to leave today, we will return to Brussels, because otherwise the trip would end up being too short”. Wymeersch said.
Rail traffic also experienced problems, with delays of between 15 and 25 minutes on local services to the west of Helsinki.
“About 30 trains were delayed in the morning. However, the delays were caused not so much by the weather, but rather by technical problems”, said Mauno Haapala traffic director at the state railway operator VR.
About 30 long-distance trains also experienced delays.
There were many collisions on the roads in the Helsinki region, but serious injuries were averted.
About 50 minor accidents were recorded by police in the area on Monday.
Wednesday is expected to be the Chrisstmas season's busiest day on the highways, and the Finnish Meteorological Institute expects slippery road conditions and blowing snow.
The motorways from Helsinki to Lahti and Tampere are expected to be the busiest on Wednesday.
Motorists are advised to reserve sufficient time for their trips. Flashlights, reflective vests, and other safety equipment are especially important in severe driving conditions. Oil levels and tyre pressure are also good to check before departure.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Heavy snowfall delays flights and causes problems on road and rail in Southern Finland (21.12.2009)
Finnish Meteorological Institute: five-day forecast for Helsinki