Snow and Holiday Rush Jam Streets

MTTraffic police officers directing cars in central Moscow on Tuesday. Rides that usually take minutes took up to an hour.
Heavy traffic snarled Moscow streets on Tuesday after snowplows found that they could not compete with 2 centimeters of overnight snowfall combined with the rush of New Year's shoppers.

Although city officials deployed a battalion of snowplows and other snow-removal vehicles in the middle of the night to clear roads, traffic jams clogged most streets in central Moscow for much of the day. The busy Garden Ring was so jammed that traffic police blocked cars from entering it at certain points.

Rides that usually take only a few minutes took up to an hour, harried commuters said.

Some 8,000 vehicles were deployed to move snow and spray snow-melting chemicals mixed with gravel on roads around the city, said Marina Orlova, spokeswoman for City Hall's housing and communal services department.

But the snow was not the only factor holding up the flow of traffic.

The upcoming New Year's celebration has increased the number of the vehicles from other Russian regions on Moscow roads, said Vladimir Korobkov, spokesman for the city traffic police. People come to Moscow to shop for gifts and to visit friends during the holidays, he said.

No snowfall is expected in the Moscow area from Wednesday night through Saturday evening, the Federal Weather Service said on its web site.

The temperature Wednesday is expected to reach a high of 4 decrees Celsius during the day before sinking to minus 6 C in the evening, Western Christmas Eve. Clear skies are forecast for Christmas Eve. Temperatures over the weekend are expected to drop to minus 10 C.