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This Wall Protects the Village from Avalanches


(Photo: Ismennt)

Flateyri is a fishing village of 300 people in northwestern Iceland. In 1995, it was devastated by an avalanche from the neighboring mountain of Kollahvilft that killed 20 people. This was the second deadly avalanche that year in Iceland. Another one in a different village killed 16 people. That's a lot for a nation of 300,000 people.

So the Icelanders decided to do something about the avalanche menace. For Flateyri, the country built an enormous earthen wall to shield it from snow. The wedge cuts into a flood of snow, driving it away from the village and into the ocean. Amusing Planet describes it:

In 1998, a special A-shaped earthen dam was built up the mountain to protect Flateyri from future avalanches. The structure consist of two deflecting dams that form a wedge or A-shaped structure in the mountain side. There is a small catching dam that extends between the two deflecting dams in the lowermost part. The walls are 600 meters long and 15-20 meters tall, while the catching dam is 10 meters high and 350 meters long.

The design worked, saving the village from another avalanche the next year:

Only a year after the dam was completed, in February of 1999, a large avalanche from the mountain came crashing down into the eastern side of the dam and went into the sea. The village was saved. The next winter, in March, another huge avalanche from the mountain slammed into the western wall and the village was protected again. Other smaller avalanches have occurred regularly, and each time the protection wall has deflected the snow safely away from the village.


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I shall pray tonight that someone places a plaque on the earthen works stating its purpose. Otherwise some nut job, 2,000 years from now, will declare it to be either a religious monument or a calling card for aliens.
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