Why do sandstorms occur?
As a result of frequent volcanic eruptions there is quite a lot of sand and other volcanic materials covering the ground. The weather here can also be extreme at time. Including strong winds which can create sandstorms in some areas.
Where can I get into a sandstorm?
Strong winds can occur almost everywhere in Iceland. The risk of sandstorms is where there is a lot of sand and other lose volcanic materials. This is mainly associated with the south cost of Iceland, around the black sands and active volcanos.
Areas such as around Vík and Skaftafell are for example danger zones for sandstorms.
When can I expect sandstorms?
When the weather is dry, and winds are strong. This can happen through out the year but is most common in from February to May. This is when the snow and ice start to clear. Leaving the sand exposed.
During the summer the weather is usually calm so there is less chance of sandstorms. The vegetation growing in the sands also help to keep is grounded.
Note, although sandstorms are most common during the spring they can also occur at summer, winter and fall.
What happens in a sandstorm?
In a sandstorm, sand and other lose materials, such as small pedals and even rocks, starts flying through the air. The wind is extremely strong, and visibility is limited. Creating extremely bad driving conditions.
When the sand hits the car, it will not only damage the paint it can also damage the windshield and lights. Sometime causing side windows and light covers to break.
How to react to a sandstorm?
If caught in a sandstorm it is important to drive slowly through it as strong winds and limited visibility will make it harder to control the vehicle.
If possible, seek shelter where you can protect the car from the elements. For example, parking near houses or walls which proved cover from the storm.
How to avoid sandstorms?
The best way to avoid sandstorms is to keep a close eye on the weather forecast. Sandstorms usually do not occur unexpectedly. The Icelandic met office has a reliable website where it is possible to see how the wind is and is expected to be. There you can also see storm warnings.
When such warning is in place, we recommend avoiding this area at all costs. Having your travel plan as open as possible can safe you from a lot of problems when traveling in Iceland.