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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Major Snowfall Snarls Streets and Metro

MTEquine statues on Gogolevsky Bulvar peeking from under a blanket of white after the first major snowfall of the season dropped 10 centimeters on the city.
After a heavy snowfall blanketed Moscow overnight, traffic police cautioned drivers on Wednesday to leave their cars at home and take the metro to avoid traffic jams.

The metro, already packed on a fair-weather day, urged passengers to stay above ground to avoid extra-large crowds and delays due to a cracked rail.

In the end, Moscow residents fought their way to work and school on whatever transportation they could find.

"I was lucky because I live pretty close to my office, but I don't know what other people did," said Irina Mazurova, who walked the 30 minutes between her apartment and office after waiting for 12 minutes at the Kitai-Gorod metro station for a train to arrive.

Mazurova gave up after hearing an announcement over the public address system that trains were running behind schedule. The delay was due to a crack on the Orange line that was fixed by the end of the day.

The snowfall, which started Tuesday night and continued Wednesday, had dumped 10 centimeters of snow on the city by Wednesday evening, meteorologists said.

Traffic jams are, of course, typical for Moscow, but this time they surprised even veteran drivers.

"I have never driven five hours from Tushino to the center before," said Alexander Krestinsky, who was stuck in traffic Wednesday morning.

Cars traveled at 5 to 10 kilometers per hour on major Moscow streets during the morning and evening rush hours, RIA-Novosti reported. On Tuesday night, jams snarled a total of 580 kilometers of the city's streets.

Traffic police reported 2,108 car crashes, including 23 serious accidents with three people killed and 23 wounded, on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"During the heavy snowfall we recommend that drivers avoid driving if possible, of course, and use the metro," traffic police spokesman Maxim Galushko said.

Traffic police officials made similar recommendations on various radio stations Wednesday.

The metro, meanwhile, warned passengers in a taped announcement on its public address system that they should go by car or bus instead.

"The load of the metro has increased since yesterday because of the snow," said Dmitry Golovin, a spokesman for the metro.

He did not have any immediate figures, but the metro usually carries 9 million passengers per day in November.

Golovin said trains were moving slower on the orange Kaluzhsko-Rizhskaya Line after a rail cracked Wednesday morning. The trains never stopped completely, but the usual two-minute intervals between them increased considerably as workers repaired the problem.

"We recommended that passengers who had no time to wait use buses," Golovin said.

City Hall dispatched a small army of workers to keep the traffic flowing on the streets. Some 10,000 snowplows were clearing major streets throughout the day, while an additional 3,000 workers were assisting in the clean up with shovels and snow-melting chemicals. About 100,000 square meters of snow had been cleared by noon. The snow is hauled away by trucks to be melted.

"We expected this snowfall ... although we did not expect it to occur during rush hour or to be so large," said Marina Orlova, a spokeswoman for the city road services. "All of our equipment is now busy around the clock, helping the traffic move along the capital's highways."

But the assistance is contributing to the problem on the roads. The snowplows and workers are helping snarl traffic.

"Our workers are being escorted by traffic police cars. This is the only way we can work because drivers do not like to give us the right of way otherwise," Orlova said.

She said snow cleanups usually took place at night but had been expanded to the daylight hours because of the excessive amount of snow.

The snow is proving to be good news for some drivers. Gypsy cab drivers are making double their usual fees, charging 500 rubles for a trip from south to north Moscow and 700 rubles from the Moscow region to the nearest metro station, Prime-Tass reported.

The weather has not affected the city airports.

"Visibility is good, and we keep the departing planes free of ice by using special chemicals," said Anna Zakharenkova, a spokeswoman for Sheremetyevo Airport.

More snow is expected for the rest of the week, but the heaviest snowfall has passed, said Dmitry Kiktev, deputy head of the federal weather bureau. "Usually the steady snowfall starts in the third week of November, but this year it came earlier," he said.

Winds have pushed most of the snow north to the Leningrad, Pskov and Novgorod regions, he said.

Temperatures are forecast to fluctuate from daytime highs of zero degrees Celsius to nighttime lows of minus 10 C through Saturday.