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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Power Cuts Ordered as Cold Returns

APHomeless people receiving a free meal at the Russian Orthodox Church of SS. Cosmas and Damian on Thursday.
After a respite from bone-chilling temperatures that last month prompted Moscow electricity suppliers to cut power to nonessential industries, utility giant Unified Energy Systems said similar power cuts would be implemented Thursday and Friday as a renewed cold wave hit the country this week.

In a statement Thursday, UES said that "energy conservation measures" were planned between 5 and 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday "to prevent a power shortfall." The power cuts would be discontinued Saturday, UES said.

In mid-January, more than 250 industrial enterprises in Moscow and the Moscow region were ordered to reduce power as officials sought to avoid a repetition of the blackout that crippled the city for several hours last May.

It was not clear Thursday evening how many companies would be affected by the latest measures, and UES officials could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

Meanwhile, temperatures were expected to continue plunging across Russia, particularly in the Far East. In the Magadan region, temperatures were expected to drop to a record minus 60 degrees Celsius within the next five days, Federal Meteorological Service spokeswoman Natalya Yershova said Thursday.

Yershova said daytime temperatures in Moscow on Friday were expected to be between minus 12 C and minus 17 C, while nighttime temperatures could reach minus 30 C at the beginning of next week.

By 5 p.m. Thursday, the temperature in Moscow was minus 19 C, online forecaster reported.

According to meteorologists, the recent chilly weather marked the country's coldest spell in about 30 years.

But for those skeptical of meteorological data and more reliant on anecdotal evidence, a poll by the Public Opinion Foundation on Tuesday found that 87 percent of respondents said the weather in the last two weeks was cold or "colder than normal at this time of the year" where they lived. Only 11 percent of the 2,100 respondents from across Russia said the recent weather was "cold, but not colder" than usual.

Meanwhile, the United States celebrated Groundhog Day on Thursday and hunkered down for another six weeks of winter, as Punxsutawney Phil, a groundhog, made his traditional annual weather prediction, this year seeing its own shadow. There is no Groundhog Day tradition in Russia, however, and the Moscow Zoo does not have a groundhog to help out with forecasting, Interfax reported Tuesday.

At the Leningradsky Zoo in St. Petersburg, spokeswoman Irina Skiba told that the zoo does have an 8-year-old groundhog, but it was currently sleeping and not expected to wake up until spring, meaning it would be unavailable to provide any weather projections, reported.