Skeiðará is a vast glacial river that runs out from beneath Skeiðarárjökull glacier and spreads out over the eastern Skeiðarársandur sands. The river was a major obstacle in centuries past, and it was not until in 1974 that a bridge across it was constructed and the Ring Road around Iceland opened. Tremendous surges come in the river every few years, carrying large icebergs out onto the sands. The last major glacial surge was in November 1996, reaching its height at a volume of some 45,000 cubic metres per second. The surge destroyed the ring road and took out a bridge over Gígjukvísl, in the western part of the sands. Since then, smaller surges have come in the river, but have not caused substantial damage.

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