Helsinki launches intense snow removal effort after massive snowfall
Dry and cold expected early in the week
The City of Helsinki has announced a number of measures aimed at clearing the streets of the downtown area of a thick blanket of snow that fell late in the week and on Saturday, causing serious disruptions to traffic.
There will be intensified snow clearance on main thoroughfares used by public transport. In some cases, parked cars may be removed to facilitate the operation.
Traffic on Saturday was reduced to a slow crawl on many streets, where the snow was more than ten centimetres thick. Lorries unable to move blocked many of the main streets, and many side streets were almost impassable.
Trams ground to a halt in the early afternoon when one of them was derailed on Mannerheimintie near the Töölö Sports Hall. In Kallio, a Dutch lorry got stuck, causing a major obstruction in the area.
Deputy Mayor Pekka Sauri, City Engineer Raimo K. Saarinen, and Mauri Suuperko, managing director of Stara, a service provider formerly part of the Public Works Department, announced a number of measures to be implemented during the week to clear up the drifts of snow as efficiently as possible.
The forecast for the next few days is for cold conditions without new snowfall, which should help the city’s snow removal efforts.
First, there is to be a concentrated effort to clear snow away from major public transport routes. If necessary, parked cars will be moved to ease the process, without the normal 24-hour notice.
Any cars that are towed will be placed nearby where the owners can easily find them.
Commuters are urged to use public transport rather than their own cars. The city recommends avoiding parking along the streets, as vehicles parked on the sides of roads hamper snow removal.
The city’s Public Works Department is examining the possibility of allowing public squares to be used as temporary parking areas.
Motorists who have to park on public streets are urged to make sure that there is enough room for trams to pass unhindered.
There were serious disruptions to tram traffic last week caused by cars that were parked too close to tram tracks. The minimum distance from a tram track to a parked car is 80 centimetres, and 1.4 metres on a curve.
Police got reports of 45 collisions in different parts of the city by the early evening on Saturday, but no serious accidents took place - largely thanks to the slow-moving traffic.
Matti Hannula of the Helsinki Police Department recommended the use of public transport if at all possible.
More than 70 collisions had been reported in the whole Uusimaa region by the evening.
“Fortunately the fire brigade was needed only a few times”, said Juha Lindholm, the fire chief on duty on Saturday.
“It has been very hard for our vehicles to move as well, but we have reached our destinations.”
Snowploughs operated by the Helsinki Public Works Department were working non-stop from the early hours of the morning through the late evening. Private contractors were also enlisted to clear streets in peripheral areas all day, and there was concern that with some of the employees, the maximum working hours would be used up.
The severe snowfall caused slight delays at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport as the runways had to be repeatedly cleared of accumulated snow.
At the Kaisaniemi meteorological station in the centre of Helsinki the depth of the snow at 6:00 PM on Saturday was 53 centimetres, including about ten cm. of new snow.
The last time that there was that much snow in Kaisaniemi in December was in 1965.
The record reading was in 1915, when the depth was 70 centimetres.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Frenzied clearance work goes on in Helsinki in anticipation of yet more snowfall tonight (9.12.2010)
Helsinki´s snowplough fleet works all night to clear streets after yet another heavy dump (8.12.2010)
Record-high snow drifts disrupt traffic in Helsinki (7.12.2010)
Finnish Meteorological Institute: Helsinki forecast