Strong winds can cause ‘wind-sensitive’ (vindfølsomme) vehicles to be forbidden from using the Great Belt Bridge, the 18-kilometre fixed link connecting Funen and Zealand. Several other bridges in Denmark, including the Øresund Bridge, Little Belt Bridge and Vejle Fjord Bridge can make similar closures, or alternatively advise against such vehicles using the bridge without banning them outright, for similar reasons.
Such situations are not uncommon in Denmark, where windy weather occurs frequently and there are several high, long bridges, resulting in occasional closures to high vehicles or warnings due to the wind.
On Friday, February 17th, as Storm Otto hit Denmark, Great Belt Bridge operator Sund & Bælt issued notice of such a closure.
15:52 På Storebæltsbroen er kørsel med vindfølsomme køretøjer forbudt (tjek dit køretøj: https://t.co/7sNi7Ig09K) på grund af kraftig blæst. Forventes ophævet kl. 23:00.
— Sund & Bælt (@sundogbaelt) February 17, 2023
The ban on wind-sensitive vehicle on the Great Belt Bridge began just before 4pm and was expected to remain in place until 11pm.
Further east, the Øresund Bridge connecting Denmark and Sweden was closed completely and was expected to open again at 3am.
READ ALSO: How much damage could Storm Otto cause in Denmark?
So how do you know if your vehicle is classed as “wind-sensitive” and therefore affected by weather advice or temporary closure of Danish bridges?
In general, the term vindfølsom encompasses cars with caravans or trailers; camper vans, commercial vans, empty lorries or lorries with very light loads. The list is not exhaustive and it’s the driver’s responsibility to make an honest assessment of their vehicle. A more detailed definition follows below.
On the Great Belt Bridge, such vehicles are not permitted to use the bridge when the wind is stronger than 15 metres per second, operator Sund & Bælt states on its website.
The reason the above vehicles are singled out is because they have a larger surface area than smaller cars and can therefore become destabilised by strong winds if they are not carrying heavy loads.
Normal cars are usually able to use bridges safely in all wind conditions, provided drivers comply with recommended speed limits. These are displayed on the bridge and are reduced if there are very strong winds.
All vehicles that are towing (caravans or trailers) are considered sensitive to the wind, regardless of the vehicle itself.
Empty or light lorries are considered wind-sensitive if the weight of their trailer is less than 10 tonnes, Sund & Bælt states.
Camper vans under 3.5 tonnes also come into the sensitive category.
Signs on the approach to the Great Belt Bridge provide advice to motorists in windy conditions. If the wind is “hard”, meaning over 10 metres per second, yellow flashing lights, signs and wind socks on the bridge warn drivers of the strength and direction of the wind.
Once winds go above 15 metres per second (kuling or gale force with side winds), signs approaching the final motorway exit before the bridge advise drivers that wind-sensitive vehicles are currently not permitted on the bridge.
In such situations, the speed limit on the bridge is reduced to 80 kilometres per hour.
Even stronger winds over 20 metres per second (stormende kuling or storm gale force) result in speed limits being further reduced to 50 kilometres per hour.
Winds over 25 metres per second are considered a full storm and the bridges are closed, with signs advising motorists of the expected delays and closure times. Closure warnings are displayed prior to the last exit before the bridge.