In Russia's Vladivostok, residents recover after 'unforgettable' storm leaves city covered in ice
The Russian port city of Vladivostok was battered by a freak ice storm on November 19, felling frozen trees and power lines, and leaving at least 150,000 people without electricity and water. Although most residents have recovered power as of November 25, the city remains covered in ice, putting residents at risk.
The freezing rains hit Vladivostok, a city of around 600,000 people, overnight last Thursday, after a “cyclone carrying hot air met an anticyclone carrying cold air”, according to local weather services.
Владивосток 19.11.2020— Nikita Milkin (@nikmilkin) November 20, 2020
Первая речка pic.twitter.com/MpOCQa2VbE
Images taken in Vladivostok on November 19 by Twitter user Nikita Milkin show ice-laden and fallen trees after the storm the night before.
“In the morning, I saw the destruction and chaos near my entrance.”
Nikita Milkin is a music editor and a student who lives in Vladivostok.
When it started raining on November 19, the rain looked ordinary. But because of the cold [Editor’s note: down to -5°C], everything freezes instantly. In the morning, I saw the destruction and chaos near my entrance. All the trees were cracked and had fallen on the road and on cars. In our area, electricity and the Internet were cut off for the evening. The next day, the lights were turned on, but there was no internet for 6 days. Some areas like Churkin went without electricity or heat for days.
Amidst the lack of power and freezing conditions, the Primorsky region declared a state of emergency. Images on social media reveal the extent of the damage.
May your mornings be as lucky as this gentleman in Vladivostok who had a very narrow escape, while cleaning snow from his car, earlier today. pic.twitter.com/J8DrKKSRTi— Bryan MacDonald (@27khv) November 19, 2020
On November 19, a video that circulated widely on Russian social media shows a Vladivostok resident cleaning ice off his car, when he narrowly escapes a slab of concrete that falls suddenly from above and crushes the vehicle.
Transportation in Vladivostok was stalled and flights and trains delayed, including the Trans-Siberian Railway that connects Vladivostok to Moscow. According to local weather services, the ice was 12 millimetres thick in some areas – a phenomenon that the region had not seen in 30 years.
At least one person froze to death in the aftermath of the storm, reported The Siberian Times, an English-language newspaper covering the Siberian region.
Vladivostok residents coped with the elements as their city gradually recovered
As the city worked to restore power, Nikita said that residents and the local government worked together to clean the streets and provide essentials for those in need:
Residents coped with the elements. We looked for volunteers to clean the roads of snow and ice. We organised a field kitchen and distributed water, gas cylinders and porridge free of charge.
The city is also handling the situation. Snowplows are cleaning the streets, and employees of the city housing department and the regional administration are helping to solve problems.
It hasn't rained again since, but the storm brought a lot of snow and danger on the roads. We have ice falling down from roofs right now. If you have to go somewhere, you have to look up. This is the first time I've seen such an anomaly in Primorsky Krai! [Editor’s note: the federal subject of Russia in which Vladivostok is located.]
This video, sent to us by Twitter user Alexander Masanin, shows his son breaking a veil of ice that covered their car in the aftermath of the storm.
By the evening of November 25, almost all areas of Vladivostok had recovered power, including Churkin, where many residents went without electricity, heating and water for 5 days. However, thousands still remain without power, notably residents on Russky Island, situated across the Russky bridge from Vladivostok.
Alexander Masanin, who works in a trading company in Vladivostok, said that the past few days were “unforgettable”.
Vladivostok is one of the southernmost points of Russia, so ice storms like this are very rare. It’s a real pity for the trees, most of which have broken branches. And because of the ice, there’s no food for birds and animals. We made some feeders, but it will not help much.
Russian analysts link the abnormal weather to climate change
The ice storm wasn’t the only natural disaster to have battered Vladivostok this year. In early September, the city was also hit by Typhoon Maysak, a destructive cyclone that killed at least three people and left 150,000 of Primorye region’s residents without power.
In an interview with the Moscow Times, an English-language online newspaper, Roman Pukalov, director of environmental programs at the Green Patrol NGO, said that the ice storm was a direct result of exceptionally warm temperatures in the Primorye region this fall. “While temperatures usually hit 0°C in early October, [this year] temperatures only just dropped below zero and brought this freezing rain with them.” Last year, Vladivostok also experienced a mild and abnormally snowless winter.
However, other scientists hesitated, saying that one could not attribute a single weather event to a single specific cause.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has ordered the creation of a working group to contend with the consequences of the ice storm, which will be led by Alexei Chekunkov, Minister for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic.