Welcome to the largest volcanic desert in the world, Skeiðarársandur in southeast Iceland. This vast wasteland was created by a combination of geothermal and glacial activity and covers some 500 square miles. Criss-crossed by drainage channels, the area’s most recent volcanic eruption was in 1996. Destroying the region’s only access to the rest of the island, several bridges on the Ring Road were washed away.
Katabatic winds are able to reach hurricane speeds in Skeiðarársandur. They have enough power to strip the paint off cars. Something my husband and I became all too familiar with. When your Icelandic car rental agency asks you if you want extra insurance for cracked windshields, just say yes. The struggle is real. Read even more about our Iceland experience here.
It was only after we retreated from a northeastern road closure with a cracked windshield that a local schooled us on the significance of these digital road signs. Yeah… they’re wind warnings. Big black digital signs in the middle of nowhere along Ring Road with a bunch of numbers. The current temperature (in Celsius), the wind speed (meters per second) and direction (N, S, E, W, etc.), and the wind gust speed. The gusts just so happen to be highlighted in green, yellow, and red indicating road safety.
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Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.