The fact that climate is changing is not a big surprise to anyone. Actually, climate changes have never been a surprise, they always are happening. Up and down...
It is very noticeable even in Russian Arctic. Very different from the time we lived there. Snow in the Arctic city of Vorkuta coming in October and it is later and later every year, while I remember that winters used to start in mid September and first snow was common in August.
But blizzards are still part of life there, and people are used to deal with them. As meteorologist say, records show that the only time there are no blizzards in Vorkuta is July and August.
Usually, blizzards are a lot of strong wind and snow, but it is very warm, around 27F - 30F. However, every now and then, there is a super blizzard that scares everyone. It comes with extreme force and extreme temperatures.
A super blizzard just rocked Vorkuta on February 26 and 27, the city above the Arctic Circle, where my kids grew up. Part of my heart stayed there...
Russians measure wind in meters per second, and the last blizzard two days ago in Vorkuta was very forceful with gusts at 34 meters per second. I converted the measurements and it is 76 miles per hour, and it is Hurricane Category 1 force (from 74 miles per hour).
When I came to the Arctic in 1976, I was very light and inexperienced, and I could handle only winds up to 19 meters per second, and after that I had no control and was simply a flying object.
After 13 years living above the Arctic Circle, I could handle gusts up to 26 meters per second. But I never experienced winds at 34 meter per second. I know that at this force you have trouble to resist the wind even if you are hugging the light pole…
Super blizzards come with very low temperatures. This last blizzard was – 17F. The combination of this force of wind with this temperature is dangerous. It can easily be deadly.
It is difficult for people to understand what it means. Imagine that your eyes get frozen. The wind will cause tears and they immediately turn into icicles. And G-d forbid you have glasses, they would be covered in ice caused by breath andit would take seconds.
You have to cover the face. The snow, that the wind picks up is not soft and beautiful. It is all tiny pieces of ice hitting you and blooding your skin.
And it doesn’t matter how warm you are dressed, at this wind it feels like you are naked…
I am lucky, I have not experienced the super blizzard. There was one a few years before we came, 16 people died and some just few feet from the door to their homes… There was one in 1996, but we already were in Florida...
At 22 meters per second, I could lay towards the wind practically horizontally, spread my arms, and the wind will hold me. But going against it was a serious challenge.
The city was prepared and they were lucky. They saved 140 people from the cars and buses on the road caught in the blizzard. Nobody died.
I contacted friends, former colleagues, my students, who still live there. They are still OK with minor damage like no cold water, cracked window, blown antennas. There is a lot of snow there, and cleaning it would take two weeks according to city oficials.
It is back to normal now. I checked Weather.com: – 20 F, wind 11 MPH, feels like – 44F.
Yep, it is normal.