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28 Jul, 2010 05:02

Extreme summer heat turns Siberia into giant beach

Not even Siberia, usually associated with freezing temperatures and icy landscapes, has escaped Russia's heatwave.

The beaches, the sun, the warm water and tanned skin – that’s what RT crew found sizzling in the summer heat near Omsk, 3,000 miles south-east of Moscow. You would never know that these sweltering Siberians will be running for shelter from the most famous winters in the world in just few months.

“We work 12 hours a day here,” said Oleg Lednyev, lifeguard. “We have such long, cold winters that people just want to lay out. The hours between 3 and 8 o'clock can be a problem, they're the hottest, and it's exactly when the most people are here at the beach.”

Like one particular veteran of 50 Siberian summers…with no air conditioning.

"It's impossible to stay at home,” said Nadezhda Karpenko. “It's too hot. I can’t breathe in the flat. There is just no air. It's been like that since May. The climate is changing. It's like Siberia is becoming a part of Southern Russia.”

Weather experts say maybe not like Southern Russia, but so far this summer, Siberia is pushing the thermometer both directions.

“The situation in Siberia is very diverse,” Dmitry Tiktyov, Deputy Director, of Hydrometcenter told RT. “I mean both hot and cool records are now broken. Omsk is located in between the cold center and the heat of Yakutia. It’s a unique region in a way. The contrast between summer and winter is overwhelming.”

But there are people who are working in this weather instead of enjoying it. After a minor set-back when their cab overheated, the RT crew found Viktor Dyakov and his daughter toiling in their soil 12 kilometers outside of town, where the snows of the steppes make way for… potatoes.

“As you can tell by my face, it’s very hot now, more than 30 degrees,” explained Victor Dyakov, Siberian farmer. “Weeds are growing quickly, and we’re fighting them. You can grow anything here if you’ve got the skills. We have very good black soil; and we have more sunny days than in St. Petersburg.”

Siberia may not be what comes to mind when you think of sand, surf and sun, but in the summertime in the Irtysh River near the city of Omsk, it is exactly what you get. And it is very hot, so the boats are coming out, there are boating competitions, and everyone is going to the beach.

“Siberian people wait a long time for summer,” said one of the residents. “They always want to get away from the cold by going on vacation. But right now we’ve got great conditions for that.”

“We have a cold summer, usually around 20 degrees,” said another sunbathing Omsk citizen. “We head to the forest for strawberries and mushrooms, but in this heat we are at the beach to swim and sunbathe. Believe it, there is no snow here in the summer. Sometimes in May, but never in the summer.”

“Everybody comes here, especially in summer when the weather is nice,” said Alexander Merzlyakov, a riverboat captain. “Everything depends on weather. Sometimes I make seven or eight trips a day. Yesterday, we carried over 1,100 people. We have nice summers in Siberia. I’ve been enjoying them all my life.”

And so are the people sizzling in the heat, on beaches, on boats, and in fields before the heat evaporates and September ushers in the storms.