By Christopher C. Burt
27 September 2013

( – September has been the wettest such on record for Moscow and flooding has swamped Sochi, the venue for the Winter Olympics next February, complicating preparations for the event.

A persistent upper level low over eastern Russia has brought record precipitation to the city of Moscow this month. So far 174 mm (6.85”) has been measured (including a bit of melted snow) breaking the previous record of 171 mm (6.73”) set in 1885 (precipitation records began in 1879). Normal September precipitation for Moscow is 65 mm (2.56”).

Sochi, located on the northeast coast of the Black Sea, received 196 mm (7.72”) of rain between September 23-25 resulting in flash floods and disrupting preparations for the Winter Olympics. A state of emergency has been declared by local authorities to deal with mudslides and flooding. A highway leading from the city to the site of the Alpine events was under 2.5 meters (8.2’) of water and badly damaged. However, on a positive note, the storm has brought heavy snowfall to the mountains north of town where many of the Olympic events will take place. [more]

Record September Rainfall for Moscow, Floods in Sochi

Himalayan black bears near the Amur River, in Russia's Far East. Bears have been left hungry as Record rains in July and August have swelled rivers in Russia’s Far East and caused flooding not seen in a century, destroying the blueberries, cranberries and lingonberries that bears usually eat their fill of in the summer. Photo:

By Kristina Chew
4 September 2013

( – Record rains in July and August have swelled rivers in Russia’s Far East and caused flooding not seen in a century. Yakutia, a vast region in the northeast of tundra and forests, has been the hardest hit. More than 100,000 people have been affected and damages (10,000 homes have been ruined) expected to total 30 billion rubles (about $91 million).

Wildlife have certainly suffered. Bears have been left hungry as the floods have destroyed the blueberries, cranberries and lingonberries that they usually eat their fill of in the summer. After six cases of famished bears breaking into homes and emptying refrigerators, authorities in the Yakutia region are responding to the pleas of residents by saying they will shoot “aggressive” bears.

It is unusual for bears to attack humans and, according to the head of the region’s hunting department, Nikolai Smetanin, bears are rarely hunted. The “dispiriting cataclysm” of the flooding and the loss of the berries has led to authorities saying that people can contact them in a “threatening situation.”

Russia’s Amur region (home to endangered species including the Amur or Siberian tiger) has been the most affected by the floods, says The Moscow Times. While the floods are moving downstream to the Jewish Autonomous Area and Khabarovsk, the waters are not expected to recede from the Amur region for weeks. Cattle have drowned in droves or been killed to prevent disease. The Russian army has joined rescue workers and volunteers to build dams and pump out water; soldiers have been sent to guard abandoned houses from looters.

Ecologists are linking the floods to global warming and also cautioning that more parts of Russia could face severe weather conditions. President Vladimir Putin has been skeptical about global warming in the past, at one time joking that this would mean that Russians would have to buy fewer fur coats and have longer growing seasons. Widespread forest fires in 2010 reportedly led Putin to say that Russians were being more “open-minded” about the possibility of human activity influencing the climate.

Putin toured the flooded Khabarovsk region Thursday and thereby came “face-to-face” with the realities of climate change. But ecologists are not expecting any change in the government’s policies which have consistently put business and industry ahead of environmental concerns, The Moscow Times says. [more]

Bears Go Hungry After Russia’s Record Floods, Some Will Be Shot

A stranded vehicle drifting in floodwaters in Sochi, where a state of emergency has been declared by authorities after days of rain and mudslides, 26 September 2013. Photo: Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

By Ivan Nechepurenko
26 September 2013

(The Moscow Times) – A state of emergency has been declared in Sochi as water and mudslides have blocked the Olympic resort's newly built main roads, just as International Olympic Committee inspectors arrived for their final assessment ahead of the upcoming Winter Olympic Games.

Many local residents could not travel to work Wednesday morning, with the city, clamped between the Black Sea and the Caucasus mountains, offering very few alternative routes to take.

Firefighters installed pumps to remove water, but given the uneven terrain, the water quickly flowed right back to the lowlands.

And while the local branch of the Emergency Situations Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that the situation was “stabilizing,” with water levels in local rivers returning to normal, photos of cars almost completely submerged in water made the rounds on the Internet.

The flooding coincided with the arrival of IOC inspectors Tuesday, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is set to address entrepreneurs at the Sochi International Investment Forum on Friday at the Bolshoi Ice Dome.

The incident may serve as the perfect test for whether Sochi infrastructure can handle critical situations, but it is unclear just what grade the new facilities would get — and whether or not they would pass at all.

Alexander Valov, editor of the local news website, confirmed the situation in the area had improved but said the roads would be blocked again if the area got the same amount of rainfall.

“The Olympic infrastructure is not ready to handle these weather conditions,” he said. “This kind of rain is typical for Sochi and happens almost every fall, but this year it was different because of all the new infrastructure, which did not have sufficient drainage for the flood.”

It took some local residents five hours to get to their homes Tuesday evening because of roads being blocked to let senior government officials through, Valov said.

Building additional roads along the coast and a highway to the area's alpine venues were among the most costly projects for Olympic infrastructure. The total cost of hosting the games has skyrocketed over the years to $50 billion, hitting the games' first record.

Alexander Zhukov, the head of the Russian Olympic Committee and one of the top officials in charge of preparations for the games, told state-run television channel Rossia 24 that he had no doubt the infrastructure would be ready and in good condition.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov agreed that everything would be done in time but was skeptical about the overall quality of the infrastructure.

“It is a total [expletive] mess down there. Yes, they will host the games, but it will all be bass ackwards,” the native of Sochi said in a phone interview.

Nemtsov said the floods might have been triggered by a drastic change in the climate recently, which was in turn provoked by environmental damage caused by all the construction.

The 48-kilometer-long Adler-Krasnaya Polyana highway, which links the seashore with the Olympic alpine resort, was built through forests and rivers of the Sochi National Park. According to Nemtsov, the road changed the air circulation in the area, which made the local climate warmer and caused mountain glaciers to melt.

“So far, this is just a hypothesis, but it is totally credible, as the overall ecosystem there is very fragile, and it is clear that there was substantial environmental damage,” he said. [more]

Floods in Sochi Cast Doubt on Olympic Infrastructure (Video)



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