MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russians may have scoffed at what U.S. President Barack Obama called “snowmageddon” earlier this month on his country’s east coast, but now Muscovites have been stunned by a snow fall that has broken their own 1966 record.
Four days of blizzards dumped 67 cm (26 inches) across the Russian capital by Tuesday, breaking the Feb record of 64 cm experienced at the height of the Cold War 44 years ago, and much more is expected this week, the Moscow weather bureau said.
Blinding flurries of thick wet flakes have horrified and delighted Muscovites alike, who usually take pride in their freezing, long winters which far exceed other European cities.
“It (the snow) is beautiful, but it creates problems in the city because it is impossible to remove all the snow here,” said Moscow resident Yelena, her face framed by a red fur hood.
The office of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said it had dispatched 15,000 snow-clearing machines and 5,000 street-cleaners for the sprawling city of 10.4 million.
A cacophony of snow tractor motors and scraping metal shovels has overtaken the city’s usual buzz of car horns.
State-run RIA Novosti agency said the number of cars in the auto-thirsty Russian capital has fallen by a third since the snow started, meaning fewer accidents than usual on the roads.
The mayor’s office added that almost half a million cubic metres of snow had been cleared away to be melted in special facilities — enough to fill around 200 Olympic swimming pools.
But heaps of snow drifts towering over pedestrians line the city’s streets not far from the Kremlin, and piles of the white stuff have caused at least two roofs to collapse, RIA reported.
The slopes surrounding the monolithic Moscow State University have become a mini-ski resort.
“It’s great, you can roll around in it,” said schoolgirl Yulia, who was playing on a sled while her parents sped down snow-covered paths on skis.
Blizzards in the United States a fortnight ago broke a 110-year-old record at 139.4 cm (54.9 inches), leaving thousands without electricity and creating a million-dollar mess.
Writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman, editing by Paul Casciato