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Moscow braces for record-breaking 'snowpocalypse'

People ski on the pond of the Novodevichy Convent in Moscow
People ski on the pond of the Novodevichy Convent in Moscow

Moscow is preparing for record snowfalls over the weekend, as weather experts predicted a record-breaking "snow apocalypse" in the Russian capital.

Top expert of the Fobos weather centre Yevgeny Tishkovets said that the snowstorm would strike the city with "very high intensity" from the early hours of Friday and last for 36 hours.

He added that winds would reach speeds of 15-20 metres per second while temperatures would drop to as low as -15 degrees Celsius.

"This is a real snow storm, snow Armageddon, snow apocalypse, this not a drill, but combat," Mr Tishkovets was cited by the RIA Novosti news agency as saying.

A spokeswoman for Russian meteorological service Roshydromet, Marina Makarova, said the storm is a continuation of the so-called "Beast from the East" that has swept across Europe over the past week.

She said that the agency predicts snowfall in the Russian capital from Friday through to Sunday totalling up to around 40cm.

With some 35cm of snow already blanketing Moscow, she said, the depth of snow in the Russian capital could approach or even surpass the record high of 77cm set in March 2013.

Ms Makarova added that the expected intensity of the storm was a result of a cyclone sweeping down from the north, first picking up cold air that then mixed with hot air over the Black Sea, before turning back up towards central Russia.

A woman crosses a road in Kiev, Ukraine

Scientists say that as the surface layer of oceans warm due to climate change, cyclones are becoming more powerful and carry more precipitation.

In preparation for the snowstorm, Moscow's deputy mayor for housing and public utilities, Pyotr Biryukov, was cited by RIA Novosti as saying that 13,500 thousand snowploughs and 60,000 workers would be deployed to deal with the fallout of the storm.

"Round-the-clock shifts have been organised," he said.

A man with skis passes the Reichstag parliament building in the German capital Berlin
The Trocadero gardens, in front of the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, are covered in snow

Five storms in 10 days loom amid bitter cold in north US

Icy blasts have hit parts of the US Midwest, the first of five storms threatening a blitz of snow and sleet from Washington state to Washington DC, and as far south as Louisiana and Mississippi.

Temperatures as low as minus 38 degrees Celsius in Cut Bank, Montana, were blamed on a polar vortex threatening to move south as it hovers at the Canadian border, said meteorologist Dan Petersen at the National Weather Service.

"It's like a rapid-fire series of multiple storms coming," he said.

The polar vortex is a vast cold air mass high up in the atmosphere, bringing with it freezing temperatures that can be prolonged if a storm develops.

"The cold air will be there waiting for the storm. When a storm goes by, the situation around the storm will continue to reinforce the cold air that's in place," Mr Petersen said.

A man walks along a near snow-covered lake in the US city of Chicago

The first of the storms bombarded Kentucky, southern Illinois, northwestern Tennessee and eastern and central Arkansas.

"A lot of areas have light freezing drizzle, and it's going to get heavier today," Mr Petersen said.

"That has the ability to break down power lines and, of course, it's very difficult to travel on icy roads."

Next up is a storm expected tomrrow to drop 7.6 cm to 12.7 cm of snow on West Virginia into Virginia and Washington DC.

Winter storm warnings were issued  for the same time for metropolitan Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.

On Saturday, a brewing storm threatens to head for New York and New England, fuelled by snow likely to turn to sleet and freezing rain in the mid-Atlantic states.

On Sunday, yet another large system of "significant" snow and freezing rain is likely to hit the southern Plains and Mississippi Valley before heading north into the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes, he said.

"Possible freezing rain in northern Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. There aren't too many ice storms down there so this will definitely stand out," Mr Petersen said.

Weather information and a full 7-day forecast