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Severe ‘black blizzard’ in Moscow: Snowfall hits 35% of monthly average overnight, Russia

Severe 'black blizzard' in Moscow: Snowfall hits 35 pcnt of monthly average overnight

The Russian capital of Moscow is facing an extraordinary ‘black blizzard’, a weather pattern typically seen in the country’s Far North. Severe weather in the capital started overnight, resulting in heavy snowfall and reduced visibility to approximately 100 m (328 feet), with the situation expected to persist until Tuesday, November 28, 2023.

  • Moscow has already witnessed 35% of its monthly precipitation average, leading to considerable challenges in city operations.
  • Russia’s Hydrometeorological Center cautioned that this could be one of the strongest November snowfalls in Moscow’s history.
  • The capital last experienced extreme end-of-autumn weather like this back in 1977.

The onset of Moscow’s first major snowfall this season has led meteorologists to describe the current conditions as a ‘black blizzard’. This term is usually reserved for severe weather patterns in the Far North, where snowflakes fly close to the ground surface, severely limiting visibility. In Moscow, visibility has dropped to around 100 m (328 feet), creating hazardous conditions for residents and commuters.

According to the FOBOS weather center, the snowfall that commenced on Sunday has intensified, with the city recording 35% of its average monthly precipitation in just a few hours. Roman Vilfand, head of Russia’s Hydrometeorological Center, cautioned that this could be one of the strongest November snowfalls in Moscow’s history. Such extreme weather was last witnessed in November 1977, as reported by Channel One.

The sudden and intense snowfall has led to significant traffic disruptions throughout Moscow. Snowbanks have grown to 16 cm (6.3 inches) in a short time, causing widespread traffic jams. The city’s transport department has advised drivers to avoid using their cars and instead opt for public transportation. The inclement weather has also impacted air travel, with at least eight flights canceled and around 40 delayed at Moscow’s airports.

To combat the effects of the snowfall, Moscow’s authorities have deployed over 50 units of specialized snow-clearing equipment and mobilized approximately 1 500 workers to clear the streets.

Mayor Sergey Sobyanin has informed the public that heavy snowfall is expected to continue, with an additional accumulation of at least 4 cm (1.6 inches) forecasted. He also warned of strong winds and a potential shift in weather patterns, with freezing rain and slippery roads anticipated as temperatures rise above freezing.

This severe weather event was caused by Storm Bettina. Bettina wreaked havoc in the Black Sea region over the past two days with its extraordinary strength.

The cyclone’s hurricane-force winds, reaching speeds of up to 144 km/h (90 mph), combined with a significant tidal surge, inflicted severe damage particularly on the Crimean Peninsula, including the city of Sevastopol and its surrounding districts on November 25 and 26, 2023. This extreme weather led to widespread power outages, affecting nearly half a million residents, and resulted in extensive flooding and property damage throughout the region.

Several communities faced water supply issues, and substantial flooding occurred in various municipalities, notably in the popular resort city of Yevpatoria. This flooding significantly affected transportation, with major roads such as the highway linking Saki and Yevpatoria becoming impassable. Rescue teams were deployed to relocate around 142 people to safer locations due to the severe conditions.

storm bettina at 0800 utc on november 27 2023
Satellite image of Storm Bettina at 08:00 UTC on November 27, 2023. Credit: EUMETSAT/Meteosat-10, Zoom Earth, The Watchers

The storm also resulted in physical injuries, with at least three individuals hospitalized by November 26. Reports indicated that at least 23 houses and 17 vehicles were damaged, along with numerous trees and billboards succumbing to the storm’s force. In response, Sevastopol’s Governor Mikhail Razvozhayev, following an emergency meeting, emphasized the ongoing severity of the situation and the efforts being made to restore electricity and reinforce roads, especially in anticipation of potentially worsening conditions, including sub-zero overnight temperatures.

In Russia, Bettina’s impact was also felt in the oil sector, as crude loadings at Novorossiysk and the CPC terminal were halted, causing a noticeable decrease in Kazakhstan’s oil production.

In Greece, the Hellenic National Meteorological Center issued a Code Orange emergency warning, forecasting heavy rain, snowfall, and a significant temperature drop in the Ionian region.

Furthermore, the storm was responsible for the sinking of the freighter “Raptor” off the island of Lesbos. Out of 14 crew members, one was rescued by a Hellenic Navy helicopter, with a search operation ongoing for the remaining 13.

References:

1 Moscow hit by rare ‘black blizzard’ (VIDEOS) – RT – 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

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