This year has already seen the Western Estonian island of Saaremaa hit with an unexpectedly early deluge of snow, and Saaremaa Municipality was already struggling with clearing it even before Friday night and Saturday morning's massive additional snowfall. Meanwhile, Southern Estonia, where snow is by no means as rare, is ready for winter.
Recent years' relatively warm and snow-free Decembers have misled Saaremaa islanders somewhat, but this year the island has seen plenty of snow at the start of the month already — up to 25 centimeters in some parts, with as much more in the immediate forecast, ERR correspondent Margus Muld reported Friday.
"There's around 20 centimeters of snow," said Andi, a village resident in Lindmetsa. "More is steadily continuing to fall, and they're calling for more overnight tonight too. The municipality is plowing [the snow], villagers and friends are clearing the municipality's roads and are working all night and clearing early in the morning. I don't think you can say anything bad about it."
"Our snow was plowed three, four times," Salme resident Sirje said. "Yesterday one disappeared only to be followed by the next."
Saaremaa Municipal Mayor Mikk Tuisk said Friday already that the money budgeted for snow clearing this year had already run out, but that wouldn't stop snow from being cleared.
"We'll very likely have to take additional [money] from the reserve fund [for this], but I'm hoping we'll manage," Tuisk said. "I guess we'll see what this winter will look like; it's only just the beginning of December after all."
The island's municipal leader noted that the local government had figured on possible additional costs of €150,000-200,000, but was hoping it wouldn't be necessary. "But that's likely going to get used up," he added.
Saaremaa Municipality, Estonia's largest by territory, had budgeted €300,000 for snow removal this year. Just one busy night of snow plowing can cost up to €5,000.
Võru Municipality prepared for snowy winter
Southeastern Estonia's Võru County, meanwhile, is accustomed to snowy winters, and thus Võru Municipality with its nearly 1,000 kilometers of roads is already prepared to clear snow.
"Võru Municipality has €390,000 allocated in this year's budget for snow clearing, but should this amount not suffice, we also have a reserve fund as well," said Võru Municipal Mayor Kalmer Puusepp. "We have 20 contracts signed, we have 32 zones and when we order full service, we've got 41 tractors out at once. One such order costs €20,000-30,000."
What the local government does struggle with each year is finding service providers to cover every last zone in the municipality, as those already under contract with Võru Municipality are already under heavy workload.
According to Ando Valli, head of OÜ GartnerGrupp, the ground still being soft is always an issue during the first few plows of the season.
"Because the snow has accumulated on top of soft ground this time as well — the ground hasn't had a chance to freeze yet — we often end up plowing some turf and gravel as well," Valli said, adding that this is simply inevitable.
"Another problem in residential areas with sidewalks is that snow is plowed from the highway onto the sidewalk, which we then have to clear," he continued. "We maybe get out there before the highway plow, and then it starts all over again."
Editor: Aili Vahtla