Southern Norway buried in heavy snow

Strong winds gusted toward hurricane strength in northern Norway on Friday, while the south was buried in heavy snow. There were no reports of serious injury in the northern storm, called Narve, with wind gusts predicted to reach up to 145 kph (90 mph) in some areas. Throughout Norway and in parts of Denmark, harsh weather disrupted road, rail and air travel. It also brought down electrical power lines, with 20,000 people briefly without power Friday in Tromsoe, the main city of the Norwegian Arctic.

There have been no major weather-related accidents report in Denmark. But snow and strong winds hampered traffic and forced the Scandinavian airline SAS to cancel some 30 domestic flights and delay some international departures. Police on Denmark's northern Jutland peninsula urged motorists to avoid driving, with icy roads reported in much of the country.

The Norwegian oil company Statoil ASA evacuated 1,100 workers building a liquefied natural gas plant near Hammerfest, the country's northernmost town, on Thursday because of the extreme winds. They were expected to return to work Monday, after the storm had passed. "Because of the ... weather forecast for the next few days, we are emptying the facility of people as a precaution," Statoil spokesman Sverre Kojedal said late Thursday.

There were also reports of small boats sinking at their docks in the far north from the weight of ice built up on their hulls. The Norwegian Meteorological Institute warned that the wind chill factor had temperature down to a dangerous -40-50 C (-40 F-58 F).

The winds also damaged buildings, blowing off roof sections in the whole northern region and destroying at least one barn. In the northern town of Beiarn, 130 schoolchildren were sent home because officials deemed the school area to0 dangerous because of flying debris.

Even though harsh winds and cold are normal during far northern winters, some said Friday's weather was extreme even for that region. "This has never happened before," school principal Kjell Hansen said on the state radio network NRK. "I can't remember that we have ever sent the pupils home because of the wind." In southern and western Norway, heavy snowfall, rather than wind, closed some roads and caused power cuts some areas.

In the two Agder counties of southern Norway, at least households were without electrical power by midday Friday, and a regional school sent 400 students home because the facility had no electricity, reports the AP. N.U.