Following a teaser snowfall last week and some smaller showers at the beginning of this week, people across the country woke up to Estonia's first proper snowfall on Wednesday, with accumulation continuing throughout the day. Police are warning drivers to be extra careful on the roads and asking those with summer tires still on their vehicles to avoid driving if possible.
"Every year, the first bigger snowfall causes a few days of chaos in traffic," said Sirle Loigo, a leading law enforcement officer at the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA). "Many drivers delay putting their winter tires on and then are in serious trouble when the first snow falls. If a vehicle doesn't have winer tires on, it would be worth avoiding driving or delaying driving until weather conditions improve. Until a vehicle has on tires with deeper treads, people should use public transport or the help of a friend whose cars have winter tires in order to reach their destination."
The law enforcement officer also reminded drivers to allow for extra time to reach their destination, taking care first to clean snow off their head- and taillights, windows and rooof, as well as avoid speeding and cautiously executing maneuvers such as turning and changing lanes.
Wintry conditions cause dozens of accidents, one fatality
The country's first snowfall has already caused traffic delays and a number of road accidents involving some injuries and one fatality.
At 11:08 a.m. on Wednesday morning, the Subaru of a 75-year-old man, which according to police had on summer tires, drifted into oncoming traffic and collided with a Scania commercial truck at the 23-kilometer marker of Pärnu-Lihula Highway, police spokesperson Ruth Vilusaar told ERR's online news portal.The driver of the Subaru was killed.
In another more serious accident, which took place in Tallinn’s Tondi neighborhood, a Scania commercial vehicle collided with an articulated city bus. According to a passenger on the bus, the other vehicle hit the side of the bus, causing ten or so passengers standing inside the bus to fall. Nonetheless, nobody was injured, reported BNS.
Police spokesperson Olja Kivistik told ERR’s online news portal that a few dozen traffic accidents had occurred in Harju County in which nobody was injured and the drivers involved were able to reach agreements among themselves, but the country’s highways have seen a number of bigger accidents on Wednesday which have resulted in injuries as well.
At 8:30 a.m., a driver lost control of their car at the 7-kilometer marker of Tallinn-Tartu Highway and collided with a bus and truck. A nine-year-old child and 35-year-old woman in the car sustained injuries in the collision.
At 9:30 a.m., a car drove off the road and into a ditch at the 35th kilometer marker on the Jägala-Käravete Highway, a portion of the road also known as Piibe Highway; two people in the car sustained minor injuries.
At 10 a.m., a Renault minibuss headed for Saue flipped onto its roof on the 17th kilometer of the Tallinn-Pärnu-Ikla Highway. According to initial reports, none of the four passengers in the vehicle was wearing their seatbelt. Three of them sustained injuries, of which one was taken to the hospital. The vehicle did have on winter tires, the tread on one of which was worn beyond allowed limits.
In Tartu County, traffic has been more uneventful overall, although lesser accidents have been reported as well.
Slightly before 7 a.m., an accident was reported in which a road maintenance vehicle collided with a passenger vehicle on Narva Highway in Tartu. Police were also notified of a number of other collisions caused by drivers attempting various maneuvers as well as two incidents in which the driver hit a road sign.
In Puhja Municipality, a VAZ drove off the road due to slippery conditions, and at approximately 6:30 a.m. a city bus hit a tree on Vabaduse Avenue. Nobody was injured in these accidents.
Other fender benders have occurred in other parts of the country as well, however these accidents involved no injuries and there were no disputes regarding fault among the drivers involved.
Forecast calls for wintry few weeks
According to the Estonian Weather Service's weather forecast, the cold, wintry weather to arrive in Estonia is expected to stick around for at least the first half of November.
During the first half of the month, Estonia will remain on the colder side of a cyclonic system reaching the Baltic Sea region and precipitation will mostly include snow and sleet while eastern winds occasionally reach storm levels. As the low pressure system passes, cold air from Scandiavia will take its place, bringing with it ever colder temperatures and allowing for a blanket of snow to form inland.
Temperatures will remain at or below zero degrees Celsius for the most part, while lows may dip below ten degrees below zero on clear nights in some parts of the country.
Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla