Travel Warning: Skaftá Flooding Imminent - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Travel Warning: Skaftá Flooding Imminent

The Skaftárjökull glacier ice sheet has collapsed by eleven meters since midnight and electrical conductivity in Skaftá is increasing.

The flood, “Skaftárhlaup” as it is called, is expected at some time tonight.

This flood is a regular occurrence. The last one was in 2015, and before that 2010. The 2015 was the largest recorded one; this one is expected to have somewhat less of an impact. Ice measurements by the Geological Institute at the University of Iceland indicate less water in the lagoon than that at the start of the flood in 2015. There is some uncertainty though, because the flood impact is also affected by its speed.

Ice Sheet Collapsing Above Cauldron

Ice Sheet Collapsing Above Cauldron. Photo from RÚV.

Met Office Warnings

The Icelandic Meteorological Office has issued some warnings to travellers:

  • The next days the banks of Skaftá will be flooding. It is possible that Skaftá will flood over roads near the banks.
  • It has happened that floods from the caldera appear partially from Síðujökull glacier, which would cause floods in Hverfisfljót river and reach Highway 1. Hverfisfljót is being closely monitored; this is not thought to be likely.
  • Some Hydrogen Sulphide is carried in the floodwater as it comes from the glacier. It can be so strong that it can cause damage to the mucous membrane in eyes and the respiratory system so travellers are strongly advised to stay away from the Skaftá path above Skaftárdalur, and the boundaries of Skaftárjökull, Túngnárjökull and Síðujökull while the flooding continues.
  • Cracks wil appear quickly along the cauldron, so travellers on Vatnajökull should stay far away from the cauldrons, the same goes through the boundaries of Skaftárjökull, Túngnárjökull and Síðujökull, where flood water could make its way to the surface.
Sveinn Rúnar Kristjánsson, chief of police in Suðurland

Sveinn Rúnar Kristjánsson, chief of police in Suðurland. Photo from RÚV.

Police on guard in Suðurland

According to RÚV, over thirty police officers will be on duty during the weekend, as verslunarmannahelgi, the largest domestic travel weekend of the year coincides with the upcoming natural disasters. In an interview, Sveinn Rúnar Kristjánsson, the chief of police down south, states that the police are well prepared for any eventuality. No decisions have been made as of yet to increase the police staff for the weekend more than that as they don’t know the scope of the flood as of yet, but are prepared if more needs to be done.

As with anything, if you’re traveling in the south this weekend, follow directions, ask if you are unsure, and move cautiously. The floods are a regular event, and usually do not pose any danger to those that don’t take risks.


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