Friday, 8 March 2013

Messy Spring!

It was exciting at first.  I hadn't seen a decent fall of snow for years while living either in the UK or elsewhere around the globe.  Even in Mongolia last year it had just been cold with light dusting of snow that evaporated quickly. Here in Eastern Kazakhstan the snow fell and remained.
The first falls were in early October, but after 24th of that month the snow continued to lie as the temperatures plummeted to the -40sC in mid-December.  Generally, the trend in temperatures has been upward, but as soon as the thermometer gets to the 0 to -12C range, the snow falls and  the drifts and banks get deeper and thicker.
Now, the temperatures are breaking through zero every now and then and the melt-water is causing the base layers of ice to be exposed, polished and lubricated for maximum slipperiness. Metal spikes/ crampons/studs in boots are essential for pavement walking.  The softening snow allows cars and trucks to sink deeper and create huge trenches that during the day fill with water and then freeze overnight.  There is no salt being spread to assist the melting, for if it was repeated for every town and city along the Irtysh and Ob rivers the amount of salt would kill all the wildlife therein all the way to the Arctic Ocean.  Thus, great care is required when walking, and, given the number of people on crutches I have seen, not everyone gets it right all of the time.  Old folks in particular do not seem to dare to venture out and who can blame them.  The rain earlier in the week has stopped and the freezing nights and snow have returned.  This new snow layer gives a bit more grip on the ice but has just prolonged the time to wait for the final thaw.  That will bring its own problems.
Earlier this week when snow did melt to soil level, all that was produced was a quagmire and with it the season of bad roads (распутица).  It seems odd that buses and cars easily coped with the temperatures below -20C, but the wet snow around zero caused them to slide and not get up steep roads.  Dry cold Winter isn't a problem.  Water is the problem - slippy ice, slippy mud.  Roll on a dry hot Summer!  Wet Autumns and wet Springs - not nice when there are few paved paths and roads.