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Suppose I get one of those text messages, like the Icelandic authorities send to travellers:

...Wind gusts could reach speeds that are known for blowing cars off the road and even pulling up the tarmac! 45-50 m/s, 112 mph or 180 km/h can be expected in some areas!...

Suppose I've been out for a long time already, and this system was too far away when I left.

And suppose I'm here:

Svartakvísl, central Iceland
Svartakvísl, central Iceland.

Nowhere to hide. No building within 24 hour walking. No caves. I might be able to reach a canyon, but I have no clue if that's a safe place to hide. Perhaps it will funnel the wind, or perhaps the wind may be associated with flash floods or landslides.

What can I do to be OK? Is this a moment to call for emergency helicopter rescue (obviously BEFORE the storm hits)?

NB: I have read What is a good tarp setup for very high winds above the tree line?, but that question talks about 25 m/s winds. I might consider sheltering in a very good and very well-pitched tent in 25 m/s wind gusts. Not so when wind gusts may be up to 50 m/s. I am not confident the answers there are wise for winds such as presently occurring in Iceland.

  • I think it wouldn't be unreasonable to at least call and ask the authorities for advice. They might prefer to helicopter you out than the risk of you getting hurt then them sending out a helicopter and possibly more people to search for you instead of going right to you. – whatsisname Feb 14 '18 at 22:58
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    for anyone else (sailing types) who can only process wind-speed in knots: that is 90-100knots. – Lyndon White Feb 15 '18 at 0:24
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    I'm pretty sure all aircraft get grounded with winds like that, so air evac is not likely an option. – ShemSeger Feb 15 '18 at 2:45
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    @gerrit, In which case the most prudent course of action would be to call the appropriate emergency service and let them make the call. If they feel you're in danger's path, they'll send an evac team. If not, they'll advise you appropriately. – ShemSeger Feb 16 '18 at 19:08
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What you are probably going to want to do is to build your own shelter out of rocks. Basically, you are going to want to pile them up into a wall a couple of feet high and get down behind that. If you know the direction the wind is coming from then you can make a horseshoe shaped shelter with the open side facing downwind.

Then you will want to get in and stay down until the storm blows over making certain that your gear is buttoned down as well. Its probably not a bad idea to bring goggles ahead of time to protect your eyes.

If you don't have to set up your tent, I wouldn't just to spare it the beating.

In fact, shelters like this are fairly common in mountain areas having been built previous hikers or inhabitants.

Afterwords, you should dismantle the shelter, but I wouldn't dismantle any you find since it they could have historic value and be a couple hundred years old.

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    Charlie, I like that reminder not to dismantle any shelter we come across. Historic value is important, and also anything we find should be left alone to comply with the principles of Leave No Trace. – Sue Feb 14 '18 at 23:16
  • Good idea. If those shelters are visible in the landscape it means they survive 50 m/s winds, assuming my shelter is as good as the stone age ones... – gerrit Feb 14 '18 at 23:48
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    "I wouldn't set up the tent" -- I'd go with stronger wording than that, and say "don't set up your tent". These are hurricane-force winds we're talking about. In these conditions, the typical tent is just more surface area to catch the wind and send you flying across the landscape. – Mark Feb 15 '18 at 2:17
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In addition to Charlie's answer on building a shelter:

Make sure you don't have to move once the storm hits.

You'll likely hardly be able to walk around safely, so make sure you're in the best spot already.

  • Stay well above the waterline to avoid raising rivers/flash floods.
  • Stay away from ravines that could be dangerous because of avalanches/mudslides.
  • Stay away from any trees (at the wind speeds you're describing also avoid forests!)
  • Keep some distance from cliffs (unless you can get inside some cave/crack) because of rockfall.
  • Winds of these strengths could well be coming with a thunderstorm, so keep the usual lightning protection advice in mind.

Make sure you'll be warm enough

Trying to mess about with your equipment in these conditions might be rather hard, do prepare as well you can:

  • Put on enough layers of clothing (insulation, wind/rain protection)
  • In extreme cases you could improvise a bivouac by wrapping a tarp/tent floor/tent fly around you before crouching behind your shelter.
  • Have enough snacks/drinks ready (e.g. make some hot tea in preparation)
  • Why "also avoid forests"? In areas where high winds are common the forests are adapted to and shaped by the winds. Extreme Antarctic Winds Shape Trees Into Beautiful Forms on Slope Point, New Zealand Also I grew up in areas of evergreen forests, tall trees with small shallow root wads. only the trees at the edge of a clear cut are subject to falling in high winds. – James Jenkins Feb 17 '18 at 10:57
  • @JamesJenkins In normal windy circumstances I'd totally agree. But OP was talking about 180km/h peak winds - that is well above Beaufort 12 Hurricane level. Storms of this magnitude can easily fell entire swaths of forest. See for example Lothar (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclones_Lothar_and_Martin) which downed some 150km^2 of fortest in France and Switzerland. – fgysin Feb 17 '18 at 11:57
  • It looks like these wind speeds are not unusual. The highest wind speeds measured in gusts only very rarely exceed 50 m/second that is 180km/h. I am with you 100% for abnormally high winds, even if they are much slower. Natural things (trees, landscape, etc) subject to unusual weather events are a risk, in winds half that speed if they are not exposed to them regularly. – James Jenkins Feb 17 '18 at 12:24
  • Avoiding forests is not going to be difficult, since we are talking about Iceland. There are no forests. – Stian Yttervik Jul 11 at 9:07

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