Snowfall Plagues Drivers, Pedestrians

MTA driver brushing the snow off of her car on Gorokhovsky Pereulok on Monday. Flurries are forecast through Friday.
The snowfall that began Sunday and continued through Tuesday left pedestrians picking their way through the slush and made the city's already bad traffic conditions worse, but may actually have reduced the number of serious accidents in the city.

A total of 15 centimeters of snow fell from late Sunday night to early Tuesday, the city's weather bureau said.

Despite centuries of winters and the fact that it was not the first snowfall of the season, the city seemed almost to have been caught unprepared. City road service agencies said they were ready to battle with the winter weather, but traffic was brought to a complete standstill across much of town on Tuesday.

City officials said 40,000 workers were engaged in snow-clearing work Tuesday and that almost 10,000 snowplows were out trying to keep the cars moving.

"All of our equipment is now keeping busy around the clock helping traffic move along the capital's highways," said Marina Orlova, spokeswoman for the city's residential services department.

Drivers were less positive about the results, saying areas that had been cleared were quickly covered by snow again. Making matters worse, the lines of snowplows, usually escorted by police, themselves end up contributing to traffic jams.

"It is impossible to get past them," said Igor Zemtsov, who was out braving the roads in his Mercedes on Tuesday.

Igor Koloskov, a spokesman for the city's traffic police, said that almost 1,550 accidents had been reported Monday but that only 17 of them had been classed as "serious," with two people killed and another 16 injured. Although he said that continued bad weather could drive these figures up, he added that the relatively small number of major crashes was characteristic for periods of heavy snow.

"These are pretty standard figures. When there is snowfall, the number of minor accidents typically rises, while the number of serious crashes decreases because average speeds are lower," he said.

All the same, he repeated a police advisory that Muscovites should avoid driving if possible.

But even when people aren't driving, it is a problem for the authorities, as parked cars prevent snowplows from clearing the drifts piling up along the sides of streets. In some cases, the city is forced to call in the tow trucks.

"We can remove a car even if it is parked in a legal spot," said Badira Kitinova, a spokeswoman for the city's towing service. "It will be moved to another spot, visible from the place from where it was moved."

A total of 740 cars were towed Tuesday to make way for snow removal crews, Interfax reported.

Forecasts from the Federal Meteorological and Environmental Monitoring Service called for the snow to keep falling at least through Friday.