Icy weather conditions have led to an uptick in emergency calls in Estonia. In Tallinn, the Rescue Board (Päästeamet) saw 142 call-outs related to slips on icy surfaces in January. Other hazards include falling ice and snow from roofs, as fluctuating temperatures and freeze and thaw action aggravate matters.
''According to the statistics, the overall monthly average for call outs has been normal, around 4-5 times per day due to slippery falls,'' said Tõnis Mölder, Tallinn mayoral deputy overseeing social and health care.
''However, there have been days which have far exceeded that figure. For instance, some days in December saw over 30 call-outs due to falls on the ice, usually on days when there were extreme conditions,'' said Mr Mölder.
''We have ongoing discussions about the problems winter brings: Slippery surfaces, clearing snow in various parts of the city, as well as water drainage. On the whole the situation in the city is satisfactory, but it has to be said that in some places, conditions are far from that. Alternating temperatures between below and above zero undoubtedly make the streets slippery,'' Mr Mölder continued.
Mr Mölder explained that responsibility for gritting the streets included city districts distributing grit to homeowners who asked for it, as well as providing additional snow clearing services.
''At the same time, the Tallinn ambulance service (Kiirabi) continues to provide daily data on falls and where they occurred, according to which the municipal police (Mupo) can approach the owner of the adjacent property, or the relevant authorities,'' Mr Mölder said.
Homeowners are required to keep the area of pavement adjacent tp their property clear of snow. Naturally commitment to this ideal runs the gamut, with some stretches, particularly where there are no residents in the immediate vicinity, remaining uncleared.
Other hazards include falling ice from roofs as the milder temperatures cause accumulated snow and ice to come loose, sometimes plummeting several storeys. Negotiating a safe path far enough from the eaves of a building to be struck by potential ice falls and yet on cleared, relatively non-slippery pavement, can often prove impossible; the thaw brings the added annoyance of puddle splashes from passing vehicles.
Temperatures have often been above zero during the day, falling below it at night, causing the meltwater to refreeze until some surface areas resemble an ice rink.
These conditions have continued so far in February. The week commencing 11 February will see milder temperatures with more thawing likely, followed by sub-zero temperatures at night and sometimes during the day, in the middle of the week, which prolongs the predicament.
Pedestrians should wear suitable winter boots or similar footwear with as adequate a grip as possible. Untreated slippery conditions can be reported to Mupo on 14 410 or the Tallinn helpline, 1345.
Editor: Andrew Whyte