Heavy snow and blizzards hit Romania and Bulgaria, claiming lives and disrupting power supply

Heavy snow and blizzards hit Romania and Bulgaria, claiming lives and disrupting power supply and traffic

Heavy snowfall, strong winds, and blizzards, unleashed by Storm Bettina, have led to severe weather-related incidents and extensive damage in parts of Romania and Bulgaria on November 26 and 27, 2023. The storm resulted in the deaths of at least 3 people and left dozens injured in several countries, including Moldova, Ukraine, and Russia. The adverse conditions are expected to persist, with forecasts predicting low temperatures and moderate rainfall across central-western Romania and north-western Bulgaria in the coming days.

In Romania, the storm’s impact was most severe in the eastern counties of Constanta, Tulcea, Galati, and Braila. These areas witnessed the closure of both national and local roads on November 26, disrupting traffic and isolating communities. The power infrastructure suffered heavily, leading to electricity outages in more than 300 localities across the region.

In Bulgaria, over 1 000 settlements, especially in the northeastern part of the country, were left without electricity on November 26. The loss of power, coupled with the closure of several roads, has hampered daily activities and emergency responses in the affected areas. The weather was so severe it prompted the government to declare a state of emergency in large parts of the country.

At least two people in Bulgaria lost their lives in traffic accidents and at least 36 were injured in just 24 hours.

A 40-year-old man in Moldova died on Sunday after the vehicle he was in skidded off the road and crashed into a tree, authorities said.

Storm Bettina has had a profound impact across several regions, most notably in the Black Sea area.

The cyclone brought about hurricane-force winds up to 144 km/h (90 mph) and a significant tidal surge, causing severe damage in the Black Sea region, especially in Crimea where it left nearly half a million residents without power, and resulted in extensive flooding and property damage throughout the affected regions.

The severity of the storm led to considerable flooding and property damage, especially in the southwestern shore municipalities, including the Black Sea resort city of Yevpatoria. Around 142 people were relocated to safer facilities due to the flooding, which also severely impacted major roads, notably between Saki and Yevpatoria. The situation was further complicated by water supply disruptions in several communities​​.

Up north, Moscow faced an unusual weather phenomenon known as a ‘black blizzard,’ typically seen in Russia’s Far North. The city endured one of its strongest November snowfalls in history, with visibility reduced to about 100 m (328 feet) and 35% of its average monthly precipitation in a short span, creating hazardous conditions for residents and commuters.

Significant traffic disruptions were reported, and snowbanks grew to 16 cm (6.3 inches) in a short time, leading to widespread traffic jams. Moscow’s authorities had to deploy specialized snow-clearing equipment and mobilize a large workforce to manage the situation. The severe weather also affected air travel, with several flights canceled or delayed​​.

In Ukraine, the snowstorm injured at least 13 people in the Odesa region — 8 got hypothermia while 5 were injured by falling trees — and caused power outages in more than 1 600 settlements across the country. Over a dozen motorways were closed to vehicles.

Nearly 1 700 cargo trucks were stuck and 1 130 cars had to be towed away amid snow drifts that in some places were 2 m (6.56 feet) high, the Odesa state emergency service said.

The Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Center issued yellow and orange weather warnings for much of the country on Sunday.

Meteorological agencies have issued warnings for continued adverse weather conditions across the region, followed by low temperatures and moderate rainfall.

References:

1 Romania, Bulgaria – Severe weather – DG ECHO – November 27, 2023

2 Powerful Storm Bettina ravages Black Sea region with hurricane-force winds, severe storm surge, flooding and snowstorms – The Watchers – November 27, 2023

3 Severe ‘black blizzard’ in Moscow: Snowfall hits 35% of monthly average overnight, Russia – The Watchers – November 27, 2023

4 Three dead as first heavy snowfall and blizzards of winter hit eastern Europe – Independent – November 27, 2023

5 Thirteen people injured as snowstorm causes havoc in Ukraine – Reuters – November 27, 2023

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