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Sudden shift in weather brings hazardous driving conditions

A dramatic change in the weather could bring conditions similar to 13 years ago, when disastrous pile-ups left mayhem on southern Finnish highways.

Luminen moottoritie.
Image: Janne Lindroos / Yle

Meteorologists warn that a thaw combined with new snowfall may make road conditions dangerous throughout southern and south-west Finland on Thursday and Friday.

A belt of snow approaching Finland from the south-west is expected to cover the south coast on Thursday, spreading slowly overnight over western and central areas as well.

At the same time temperatures are rising near or above the freezing point for the first time in weeks. Yle’s chief meteorologist Seija Paasonen says the situation brings to mind March 17, 2005, when a series of chain collisions occurred on motorways around the Helsinki region.

Deadly pile-ups

Three people were killed, two on the Porvoo motorway and one on the Lahti motorway. More than 60 people were hospitalised.

“That followed a long spell of cold, dry weather,” she explains. “When snow began during the morning rush hour, driving conditions changed abruptly. Although the snow did not fall heavily, it was blowing around thickly.”

Thursday’s snow also follows an exceptionally cold, dry period. Many motorists may have become accustomed to good visibility and dry road surfaces, so the change may bring challenges.

Temperatures rise above zero

This time the situation should be better than 13 years ago in that the heaviest snowfall is not expected to begin until after the evening rush hour. The heaviest snowfall is predicted for the south-west coast, which could pick up 10 centimetres of new snow.

Meteorologist Matti Huutonen adds that temperatures are likely to remain below freezing throughout the country – just barely so on the south coast – but that on Friday they will rise above zero in the south at least, while becoming milder elsewhere.

“Conditions should be cloudy and grey, which is typical for this time of year,” says Huutonen.

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