Blizzards wreak havoc on Russia’s Arctic city of Norilsk (VIDEO)
A powerful cyclone has triggered days of severe snowstorms in the world’s northernmost city of Norilsk, leaving inhabitants battling to maintain a regular lifestyle in the face of extreme cold, biting winds, and low visibility.
Storm warnings have been announced every few days throughout the past month, with the latest declared on Sunday night, as a warm cyclone hit the city. Temperatures have risen from about -25C to -15C, but a third of the expected monthly snowfall fell on Sunday night alone, and precipitation has not subsided since. Average snow cover has reached seven inches.
Winds have regularly exceeded 25 km/h, and have on occasions reached 40 km/h, which is defined by Russian meteorologists as a “black blizzard” - a severe weather event. Visibility has fallen below 1 km, but videos posted by locals show that it is hard to make out the houses on the sides of the road even during daytime – which only lasts five hours - without streetlights.
Several roads around the urban center have been closed for safety reasons, with ice coverage compounding the blinding snow clouds. Amateur footage shows buses stopping still in the middle of the road – some have been traveling in columns to avoid breakdowns - and citizens having to be picked up by passers-by after being blown off their feet. School attendance for all grades has been made optional, though classes are still being taught.
A roof has been blown off completely from one of the houses in the city, a regular occurrence, though unlike previous occasions, there were no casualties.
“I don’t remember roofs being destroyed at these rates. This shows the state of our housing – they are not building anything new, and can’t maintain what’s already here,” wrote one resident on the Russian social network VK, after posting the photo.
Local authorities say the storms will dissipate by Wednesday, and and sunny weather will shine through, with temperatures falling to -30C.
With a population of 175,000, Norilsk is the second biggest city inside the Arctic Circle, after Murmansk, which has far milder weather. There are no urban centers with even 100,000 people closer to the North Pole.
It was founded on Joseph Stalin’s orders in 1935 to provide natural resources for Russia’s burgeoning industry. Its nickel, copper and palladium reserves are some of the biggest in world, and despite regularly being classed as Russia’s most polluted city, and the world’s second windiest, it attracts tens of thousands of guest workers who man its mines on temporary contracts.