Almost 7,000 households without power across Estonia, transport disrupted

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Snowstorm Birgit in Tallinn, December 12, 2022.
Snowstorm Birgit in Tallinn, December 12, 2022. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Almost 7,000 households are still without power on Monday evening after a fierce snowstorm battered Estonia throughout the day. The majority of power outages, approximately 4,000, are on the western islands. Ferry and air traffic have been disrupted and road conditions are difficult.

Kindergartens and schools will be closed in Hiiumaa and Saaremaa tomorrow due to severe conditions.

In southern Estonia, the snowfall has stopped.

The transport administration has extended its special snow-clearing regime until 8 p.m. on Tuesday evening.

Public transport is not running on schedule.

The storm caused power cuts across the country earlier today which peaked at 13,000 at around 10:15 a.m. You can view the current situation on Elektrilevi's outages map.

Power outages in Estonia at 1:30 p.m. Source: Elektrilevi

The situation in Saaremaa was the most critical and Elektrilevi dispatched additional brigades from the mainland to help fix powerlines. Some residents have been without power since Saturday due to an earlier storm.

There have been 70 rescue events related to storm damage since the beginning of the storm until Monday evening, and they have mainly involved trees that have fallen onto the road or lines. On 13 occasions, rescuers went to help vehicles that had driven off the road or were stuck.

"Strong wind and blizzard is complicating repair work. We have involved volunteers who help our brigades look for disruptions and clear power lines. Because the work is extremely dangerous, it can only be done under the supervision of our electricians," said Mihkel Härm, chairman of the board of DSO Elektrilevi.

Strong wind and snowfall will continue to batter Western Estonia tomorrow, moving northwards.

Households should be prepared for more powercuts.

Rescue Board receives 70 storm-related calls

The Rescue Board has received 70 calls related to the storm by Monday evening, most of them to do with fallen trees.

An advertising poster and an apartment building's sheet metal window sill has been torn off by wind in Tallinn, the board's communication specialist Katerina Mudarissova said.

The board has had to remove the most fallen trees in Haljala Municipality, Lääne-Viru County for a total of seven incidents.

Rescuers responded to a call in Rannu, Viru-Nigula Municipality at 8:45 p.m. where a truck had gone off an overpass that caused one direction of the road to be closed.

"We are keeping in touch with local governments to learn of disrupted services as soon as possible," Mudarissova said.

Flights canceled and ferry link to Hiiumaa disrupted

Fights from Tallinn Airport were canceled throughout the day.

Tallinn Airport released a video of runway clearing.

Ferry traffic between the mainland and Hiiumaa was disrupted by strong winds at 10 a.m.

Guldar Kivro, head of shipping for operator TS Laevad, said that the company is closely monitoring weather conditions and reports and hopes ferries can return to service Monday evening.

"The Virtsu-Kuivastu line (between the mainland and Muhumaa and Saaremaa – ed.) is still operational, while the conditions are being monitored there too.

TS Laevad also said that lower-than-usual water levels might affect the number of vehicles ferries take on as well as continued operation of ferry services.

Trains are also being delayed due to difficult weather conditions.

Rescue Board: Situation bound to worsen

Leho Lemsalu from the Rescue Board said that they have received a few dozen calls, mostly over fallen trees.

The Rescue Boards' spokesperson urged people not to drive if possible and rather count on stoppages and traffic jams if it cannot be avoided. "In other words, the situation is bound to worsen as they day continues."

"The vehicle should have enough fuel for interior heating. It would be good to have a shovel and a towing rope in the car and to wear warm clothes," he added.

Transport Administration orders special snow clearing regime

The Transport Administration laid down a special road clearing regime caused by difficult weather conditions at 6 a.m.

The situation on Tallinn-Tartu highway in Jõgeva County around 6 a.m. Source: Tark Tee application

All existing resources will be used for snow clearing and road maintenance, which can nevertheless not be expected to ensure usual standards. It is very likely that heavy snowfall will render some state roads, especially smaller side roads, impassable.

The administration urges people to avoid driving if possible. People should take more time for trips that cannot be postponed, stick to safe speeds, avoid risky maneuvers and consider their fellow drivers.

The agency believes it can restore necessary road condition standards by 8 a.m. on Tuesday. The special road-clearing regime will be extended if necessary.

The Estonian Environmental Agency forecasts northeast wind of 15-21 meters per second starting Monday morning, hitting 26 meters per second on the islands and coast. Snow and blizzards will spread northward starting in northeastern Estonia, with showers becoming more intense as the day progresses. Visibility is poor.

The situation on main roads can be monitored using the Tark Tee application.

Tallinn urges drivers to delay journeys

Tallinn residents are warned to avoid entering traffic and driving today if possible on Monday.

While more resources are being allocated to clearing roads, sidewalks and driveways but high winds and heavy snowfall make road conditions very difficult, said Tarmo Sulg, deputy director of Tallinn Environment and Municipal Services.

"Wind gusts can cause blowing snow, which in turn reduces visibility. So be very careful on the roads today. If possible, consider staying indoors today to avoid going outside altogether. In addition, you should be aware that trees, branches and power lines may break as a result of the storm, endangering people and parked vehicles, as well as obstructing traffic and road maintenance," he said.

A snowstorm is expected this afternoon and evening. Up to 15 centimeters of snow may fall during the day, with north-easterly winds of 9-13 gusting to 23 m/s. Winds are expected to ease overnight into Tuesday.

Update: This article is being updated regularly to keep up with developments.

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Editor: Urmet Kook, Marcus Turovski, Helen Wright

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