MOSCOW – The snow started falling late Thursday, sticking to car windshields and hiding walking paths. By Friday morning, apartment windows had a thick white rim at the bottom. It kept snowing. On Saturday, whole park benches were under a snow depth of 56 centimeters, or 22 inches.
By the time it was over on Sunday, parked cars were buried under heaps of snow.
Moscow is, of course, no stranger to snow squalls and drifts. There was already some snow on the ground when the latest storm started. But the weekend’s wintry blast was noteworthy even for the Russian capital. Around 75 percent of the average February snowfall came down in little more than a day on Saturday, according to the Russian weather service Fobos.
A year ago, as Moscow experienced its warmest winter in nearly 200 years of record keeping, Russians longed for the white covering that often makes January and February’s dark days appear brighter.
And Moscow normally doesn’t miss a beat with snow. This wallop, however, was different. More than 100 flights were delayed or canceled in Moscow’s three main airports.
“It’s a real snowstorm, a snow Armageddon, a snow apocalypse. This is not a practice alert, but a combat alert,” Fobos’s Evgeny Tishkovets told the state-run RIA news agency before the snowfall even began.
Moscow’s deputy mayor, Pyotr Biryukov, announced that about 60,000 road workers, janitors, roofers – along with 13,500 units of equipment – were tasked with removing the snow. That included snow-eaters: one-manned vehicles that shovel snow onto a conveyor belt that stretches back to a separate truck collecting it.
Some residents decided to traverse downtown on skies. Dogs that waded through fluffy snow piles looked as though they were lost in a field of tall corn stalks. Businesses stayed open and fruitlessly attempted to keep their doorways clean as customers walked in with sopping boots.
The real cleanup effort was saved for Sunday. Neighbors met outside with shovels, joining the city cleaners. More snow is expected Tuesday.