Snow Engulfs Moscow in Harshest Winter Start in 50 Years

Moscow officials deployed 12,000 snow-removal vehicles and more than 7,000 people to keep roads open and sidewalks cleared amid the Russian capital’s biggest November snowstorm in more than half a century.

“I was speaking with the forecasters, and it’s been more than 50 years since Moscow’s seen something like this,” Deputy Mayor Pyotr Biryukov said in comments shown today on state-run Vesti-24 television. About 55 centimeters (22 inches) of snow will fall in the city over three days, he said.

Commuters faced traffic jams stretching for kilometers, with a service operated by Internet portal Yandex NV ranking the congestion on Moscow’s roads at nine out of a possible 10 in the morning. Weather forecasters said the situation may worsen tomorrow, when freezing rain is possible, Vesti reported.

Eastern Europe was hit by cold Siberian air and above-normal snowfall at the start of this year, triggering a surge in demand for natural gas across the region that OAO Gazprom struggled to meet. Russian electricity consumption jumped to an all-time record as freezing temperatures engulfed much of the country, while crops in the southern Rostov region endured the coldest weather in 60 years.

Seventy-three flights were delayed last night at Domodedovo International Airport, south of Moscow, RIA Novosti reported. Not all delays were weather-related and the airport has been operating normally since 5 a.m., Domodedovo’s press service said. Sheremetyevo International Airport, north of the city, was working as usual as of 10:40 a.m., according to a statement on its website.

City police are asking drivers to avoid using their cars and avoid parking on roads, which has complicated snow removal efforts, state-run Channel One television reported.

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