Red Ice Membership

Heaviest Snowfall Ever Hits Moscow
2005 02 02

By Anatoly Medetsky - The Moscow Times

A powerful snowstorm that raged in Moscow on Friday was the heaviest day's snowfall since weather records began, forcing planes to divert away from airports, snarling city traffic and making pedestrians wade through meter-high snowdrifts.

Friday's snowfall was equivalent to precipitation of 9.4 millimeters, smashing the previous record of 7.8 millimeters set in 1977, the city's weather bureau said.

Winter's return came with a vengeance after some of the mildest January temperatures on record, which recalled weather more like that experienced in April.

A total of 30 centimeters of snow fell in the city over Thursday through Sunday, Interfax reported, citing the weather bureau.

This January may turn out to be the snowiest since city weather records began in the 19th century. Meteorologists recorded precipitation of 82.2 millimeters over the month to Friday, second only to 83.6 millimeters in January 1970.

This month's snowfall is twice the January average, weather officials said.

The strong snowfall began Thursday and continued Friday. Its force began to wane on Saturday, but more snow is expected throughout this week.

Thursday was also the coldest day this winter, with the air temperature plunging to minus 17.6 degrees Celsius -- 2.4 degrees colder than the average for this time of year, the city weather bureau's web site said.

It was last as cold in Moscow on Nov. 30, when meteorologists registered a temperature of minus 18.6 degrees Celsius.

The cold snap occurred right after 26 straight days of comparatively mild temperatures hovering about zero degrees Celsius, which included the warmest January spell on record. The spring-like weather caused a meltdown that all but denuded Moscow of snow.

On Thursday and Friday, dozens of planes had to divert from Moscow airports to destinations such as Nizhny Novgorod, or were stranded in Moscow due to strong side winds, limited visibility and slippery tarmacs, Interfax reported. Airports were operating as normal over the weekend, the agency reported.

City officials insisted that the efforts of an army of municipal workers kept traffic flowing on city roads Friday, saying that a total of 25,000 workers and 5,000 snowplows labored to clean up the main highways.

"We had expected abundant snowfalls ... although we expected them to occur earlier and be, of course, not so great," Interfax quoted Pyotr Aksyonov, the city's first deputy mayor, as saying Friday. "All our equipment is now busy around the clock helping traffic move along the capital's highways."

But traffic came to a complete standstill at many places across town, news reports said. Traffic police reported 1,013 traffic collisions -- twice the average -- on Thursday.

Meanwhile, gale-force winds toppled a 30-meter high scaffolding on Zemlyanoi Val on Friday, Moskovsky Komsolmolets reported. The structure damaged several cars, but no one was hurt.

The snow came in with a warm front from the Mediterranean, and the wind came in on a cold front from Siberia, the weather bureau said, resulting in a clash over European Russia.

Snowdrifts blocked traffic on the main highway between Moscow and Rostov-on-Don, creating a 12-kilometer backup of cars and trucks Saturday, Interfax reported.

Roman Vilfand, director of the country's leading meteorological research center, Gidrometcenter, said that such severe snowfalls only take place every 25 or 30 years, Channel One reported Friday.

"It's not up to me to judge if this weather is good or bad, but skiers are happy," Vilfand told NTV television.

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