Blizzard conditions, record-low temperatures and high winds persisted from Bulgaria to Baku, disrupting transportation and complicating efforts to respond to a calamity that has claimed hundreds of lives in central and eastern Europe in the last week.
Palm trees lining the beaches of the Adriatic sea city of Split in Croatia were bowed under snow while streets in the port town were clogged due to a lack of equipment for dealing with winter conditions. Winds in neighboring Slovenia reached as high as 180 kilometers an hour (112 miles), slowing truck transport on highways and roads through the Alpine country.
“Split has not seen this kind of weather in 50 years and citizens were completely unprepared as they don’t have the proper clothes, the proper tools or even proper car tires,” said deputy mayor Jure Sundov in a phone interview. “By now they heeded our advice to help themselves and are trying to clean snow and ice with whatever they have.”
A mix of cold Siberian air from the north and winter snows from the Mediterranean Sea into the Balkans are forecast to persist for at least a week from Russia to the German border, according to local forecasts from various meteorological services. Temperatures in the Czech Republic may fall to as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius (minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit) in the coming days, according to the Czech Hydrometeorlogical Institute.
“I’m shoveling snow and scraping ice off the sidewalk and in an hour it’ll all be under snow again,” Krassimir Popov, a food store owner in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, said in an interview. “It’s an unrewarding job.”
Demand for electricity, hot water and natural gas has surged, also leading to fires in homes and businesses from overheating or bad wiring. Power consumption in Poland rose to a record yesterday, grid operator PSE Operator SA said and reached a two-year high in Estonia.
“In the first week of February when orders for gas increased by more than 50 percent of the average standard supply, we couldn’t meet the demand by 100 percent,” Gazprom Deputy Chief Executive Officer Alexander Medvedev said at a press conference in Vilnius today. “But the European consumers were not hurt because there is more than enough gas at storage facilities across Europe. The amount of gas in storages can meet the demand in similar cold weathers for the next 30 days.”
Bulgaria’s Black Sea ports of Varna, Burgas and Balchik closed today because of strong winds, authorities said. Some 60 towns and villages in northern Bulgaria are without electricity, affecting some 150,000 people as strong winds cut power cables, while floods in the south disrupted power supplies for 20 villages, the utilities said today. Ship loading was also disrupted in Novorossiysk on the Russian part of the Black Sea.
Six cold-related deaths were reported yesterday in Poland, according to police, bringing the death toll since Jan. 27 to 67. The mid-morning temperature in Warsaw reached minus 13 degrees Celsius, compared with minus 18 Celsius yesterday. Conditions were little changed in Ukraine, where temperatures reached minus 17 degrees Celsius in Kiev and reported deaths from the cold exceeded 200 in the last 11 days, according to Ukraine’s Emergency Ministry. As many as 40 schools remain closed in the country.
Elektrownia Kozienice, a power plant of Poland’s third- largest utility Enea SA (ENA), yesterday delayed a restart of 560- megawatt capacity as it is still waiting for the water level on the Vistula river to rise, Ewa Dobrzanska-Trela, a spokeswoman for the unit, said by phone today.
Kiev residents were tiring of days of bad weather and arctic chill that has turned streets into sheets of ice.
“It is yet another chance to observe how the authorities are ‘saving up’ on cleaning streets from snow and roofs from dangerous icicles,” Irina Didichenko, an architect with three children, said. “It is nice in many ways because we are helping our grandparents, elderly neighbors to go get groceries because it is slippery outside.”
Temperatures in Warsaw were as low as minus 13 degrees Celsius today, and are forecast to average minus 14 degrees tomorrow and on Feb. 9, according to CustomWeather Inc. data. That compares with a five-year average of minus 4 degrees, the data show.
Romania closed 46 national roads today because of blizzard conditions and four Black Sea ports because of strong winds. Air traffic at the country’s two international airports in Bucharest was also disrupted, the Romanian Transport Ministry said.
Traffic on the Romanian section of the Danube river was also closed after Serbia shut its section of the waterway due to ice flows, the government said. Bulgaria’s border crossings with Romania across the Danube and to Turkey were closed after floods and blizzards blocked roads in the country. A dam burst in the south of Bulgaria, killing eight people, destroying hundreds of livestock and some 200 houses yesterday.
Sections of railroads and highways going to Turkey were swept away by overflowing rivers yesterday, while freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall today hindered rescue and recovery operations. Most of Bulgaria’s southern cities including Haskovo, Harmanli and Kardjali near the Greek and Turkish borders are in a state of emergency. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov has asked the European Union for aid to clean up and rebuild flooded areas.
As much as 15 centimeters of new snow fell overnight across Austria, slowing traffic on highways, the Central Institute for Meteorlogy and Geodynamics reported. Two blocks of the Danube river were closed at the Ottensheim and Wallsee watergates, it said.
In Serbia, not all the news was bad after more than a week of heavy snowfall.
“The thick layer of snow is a blessing for wheat” sown in the late autumn as it protects the crop from freezing and also guarantees humidity in the spring, said Branislav Gulan of Serbia’s Chamber of Commerce’s agriculture department. Gulan said 30 percent of the barley crop was destroyed by the cold that struck before the snowfall.
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