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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Flash Warming Brings Spring Flood Warning

Just as Muscovites are recovering from three months of unusually heavy snowfall, emergency officials warned Wednesday that the city should brace for a fresh disaster — floods.

A typical winter snowfall, if piled in one place, would fill the Luzhniki stadium to the height of a 32-story building by spring, according to city officials. This year's snowfall would fill a height of 41 floors.

That enormous amount of snow is fast melting after temperatures jumped to over 11 degrees Celsius this week and is putting extra strain on the city's easily cloggable drainage systems.

"All of our rescue teams are now working on coordinating city service efforts to avoid flooding," said Lyudmila Skvortsova of the Moscow Emergency Situations Department. "We expect rivers within Moscow to rise by two to four meters, while the swelling of rivers just south of Moscow could grow as high as seven meters."

Officials are working to make sure that the Moscow River and the other hundreds of waterways snaking through the city don't spill over. Still, enormous puddles of muddy water will form and cover Moscow's streets and yards for the next three weeks as huge snowdrifts melt.

Shores in parts of Strogino and Serebryany Bor in northwest Moscow will see the usual seasonal flooding.

Meteorologists said Wednesday that some 92 millimeters of water fell on Moscow in February — which in simple terms means nearly a meter of snow. That amount is 155 percent more than the usual 36 centimeters and does not, of course, include the snow that has fallen since November.

Skvortsova said the seven-meter rise in water levels expected south of Moscow would not only damage agricultural land and settlements but pollute the rivers with fertilizer swept off the land.

A more imminent threat of floods lies in regions around Moscow and the Urals and Siberia, emergency officials said. The thicker-than-usual ice on Siberian rivers may require the summoning of jet fighters to bomb the waterways in a bid to unclog them.

"We are planning to have military planes ready in case ice blockages need to be destroyed quickly," said Viktor Beltsov, a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry.

"We normally request the assistance of nearby military units," he added. "Instead of dropping bombs on training grounds, they will have a chance to do something actually useful."

Another danger looming as the weather gets warmer is getting stuck on ice. Fishermen and children often get stuck on broken ice, even in Moscow rivers.

"Over the past years there were a number of times when we were forced to resort to helicopters to lift people from ice blocks floating down the river," said Skvortsova.

She said emergency officials are already keeping a lookout.

Russia's main meteorologists at Rosgidromet said that the areas likely to be flooded range from neighboring regions like Kaluga, Tula, Vladimir, Vyatka and Ryazan to more far-flung places like Yakutia and Altai. Western Siberia and the Urals are also listed as areas at risk until April or May.

The most drastic developments are likely to take place along the Tobol River in Tyumen region in Western Siberia, according to the Emergency Situations Ministry.

There, rivers could swell by as much as three meters over the usual flooding levels.

The ministry has already allocated 298 million rubles ($10.4 million) to fight floods and plans to spend 400 million rubles before summer arrives.

Russia usually suffers about $500,000 in damages from floods each year.

However, the scale of this spring's flooding remains largely unclear, said Yelena Yershova of Rosgidromet.

"A lot will depend on whether the spells of warm weather will be mixed with patches of cold," Yershova said. "If that is the case, the thawing will be gradual and the risk of high floods will be less.

"But if spring comes too quickly to any territory, there is likely to be a problem."

For Moscow, meteorologists promised that residents for the time being will not see too much water on the streets. Although temperatures Wednesday leaped past the March 14 average of 7.7 degrees Celsius to a record 11.4 C, the unseasonably warm weather is expected to cool down by Saturday.

Even so, the meteorological service is notorious for mispredicting the weather — so emergency services across the country are standing by.