Throughout the past several days, road maintenance workers have managed to keep Estonia's main highways drivable, but side roads may still be a problem in parts, Transport Administration official Andres Piibeleht said on Vikerraadio's "Vikerhommik" on Tuesday morning.
Estonia's main roads are currently undergoing the most frequent maintenance and remain drivable, but drivers may still encounter snowdrifts on secondary roads as road maintenance workers continue to work to clear them, said Piibeleht, director of the Transport Administration's Infrastructure Construction and Maintenance Department.
Road conditions are expected to be brought under control over the course of the day.
Nonetheless, freezing rain in the forecast could cause new problems, he continued, noting that it has already fallen in parts of the country and the forecast currently calls for more.
The Transport Administration official thanked drivers who heeded Monday's warnings and drove at reasonable speeds. He also encouraged people to remain home again Tuesday and stay off the roads in general if possible.
Some 250-300 road maintenance vehicles are currently out working on highways throughout the country, he said.
According to a press release issued by the road authority Tuesday morning, road surfaces along Estonia's national highways were snowy early in the morning, with smaller highways snowier than the main roads.
Snow is continuing to fall in much of Northern Estonia, with drifts continuing to occur as well.
Director general: We're working hard on slippery conditions
In an appearance on ETV morning program "Terevisioon" on Tuesday, Transport Administration Director General Priit Sauk said that it was decided on Monday night already to extend the special road maintenance regime through 8 p.m. Tuesday, citing the fact that it was unlikely that the road authority would be able to ensure required road condition standards — mainly in terms of slipperiness — on all Estonian roads within the day.
"We don't have issues with passability anywhere on our national highways, in terms of snow clearing," Sauk explained, noting that they and their partners have managed pretty well on that front.
"But we haven't yet been able to eradicate the slipperiness caused by packed snow and the freezing rain that fell in Eastern Estonia overnight," he continued. "We're working hard on that and hope that the situation will be significantly improved by evening."
Monday's situation was as expected, Sauk said, noting that the Transport Administration had correctly assessed the risks and warned road users. Road users in turn took note of the warnings and heeded them, and Monday saw significantly reduced numbers of road users out in traffic. No major crashes were recorded that day, he added.
He recommended drivers stay off the roads on Tuesday as well, if possible, adding that doing so would help keep people as well as vehicles safe.
"But of course — if you must travel, then that opportunity is currently ensured on national highways everywhere; there's no risk of getting stuck," he continued. "Smaller side roads might need followup maintenance, intersections plowing and bus stops and bridge barriers cleaning, but the drivability of our roads is guaranteed. But safety remains a crucial issue."
According to the director general, roads can only be salted in conditions of no wind, which is why road maintenance started salting roads in areas where the snowstorm's winds had died down, and in the meantime just continued to plow them.
He noted that Estonia has sufficient equipment and people to maintain the country's roads, but people have perhaps been spoiled in expecting to be able to drive again so quickly after a snowstorm. "Expectations are very high, but we are indeed a northern country and it snows here," he said. "Our maintenance equipment cannot possibly reach all 16,500 kilometers of state roads."
Nonetheless, their maintenance equipment cannot possibly reach all 16,500 kilometers of state roads, he said, adding that additional new weather stations would help contribute to more precise forecasts, which in turn would allow the Estonian road authority to respond even more quickly.
Traffic conditions still difficult in capital
Arterial roads in Tallinn are drivable and largely less snowy even after the bulk of Snowstorm Birgit's precipitation in the Estonian capital fell on Monday night, but smaller roads are still covered in snow, including in the city center, and less powerful vehicles attempting to drive them risk getting stuck, as has already happened on several streets.
Many sidewalks are also still in bad shape, as are crosswalks, which have been blocked by piles of plowed snow.
Editor: Aili Vahtla