Ice storms in Russia's far east prompts state of emergency
The Russian port city of Vladivostok was battered by a freak ice storm on 19 November 2020, felling frozen trees and power lines and leaving at least 150 000 people without electricity and water. Although most residents have recovered power as of 25 November, the city remains covered in ice, putting residents at risk. The freezing rains hit Vladivostok, a city of around 600 000 people, overnight after a “cyclone carrying hot air met an anticyclone carrying cold air”, according to local weather services. Amidst the lack of power and freezing conditions, the Primorsky region declared a state of emergency. Transportation in Vladivostok was stalled and flights and trains delayed, including the Trans-Siberian Railway that connects Vladivostok to Moscow. According to local weather services, the ice was 12 millimetres thick in some areas – a phenomenon that the region had not seen in 30 years. At least one person froze to death in the aftermath of the storm, reported The Siberian Times. Vladivostok residents coped with the elements as their city gradually recovered. As the city worked to restore power, residents and the local government worked together to clean the streets and provide essentials for those in need. Volunteers cleaned the roads of snow and ice and organised a field kitchen and distributed water, gas cylinders and porridge free of charge. The city is also handling the situation. Snowplows are cleaning the streets and employees of the city housing department and the regional administration are helping to solve problems.
It hasn't rained again since but the storm brought a lot of snow and danger on the roads. Ice is falling down from roofs. By the evening of 25 November, almost all areas of Vladivostok had recovered power, including Churkin, where many residents went without electricity, heating and water for five days. However, thousands still remain without power, notably residents on Russky Island, situated across the Russky bridge from Vladivostok.
Vladivostok is one of the southernmost points of Russia, so ice storms like this are very rare. It’s a real pity for the trees, most of which have broken branches. And because of the ice, there’s no food for birds and animals. We made some feeders but it will not help much.
Russian analysts link the abnormal weather to climate change. The ice storm wasn’t the only natural disaster to have battered Vladivostok this year. In early September, the city was also hit by Typhoon Maysak, a destructive cyclone that killed at least three people and left 150 000 of Primorye region’s residents without power.
Roman Pukalov, director of environmental programmes at the Green Patrol NGO, said that the ice storm was a direct result of exceptionally warm temperatures in the Primorye region this fall. “While temperatures usually hit 0°C in early October, [this year] temperatures only just dropped below zero and brought this freezing rain with them.” Last year, Vladivostok also experienced a mild and abnormally snowless winter.
However, other scientists hesitated, saying that one could not attribute a single weather event to a single specific cause.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has ordered the creation of a working group to contend with the consequences of the ice storm, which will be led by Alexei Chekunkov, Minister for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic.
Source: The France 24, Euro News