WINTER WOES: Winter hit the Baltics hard and fast this year, as a hurricane dumped snow and ice throughout the three countries. The poor road conditions resulted in three deaths in Latvia. The storm also saw collapsed roofs and stranded school children in Estonia.
RIGA - A devastating snow storm swept through the Baltics on Nov. 22, leaving three people dead and causing thousands of euros in damages.
Meteorologists said the situation was the most severe in eastern Latvia, and due to poor visibility and road conditions, they advised citizens to stay off the roads.
Despite the warning, Latvian State Police reported three deaths on state roads in the span of just a few hours. Police also reported that over 40 traffic accidents occurred from Nov. 22-23. Estonian Police reported about 20 accidents on Nov. 23.
In Latvia's Vidzeme region, two cars collided and a four-year-old girl was pronounced dead at the scene. In Riga, two small cars slammed into each other in the snow, killing a male passenger.
A female pedestrian on Ludzas Street in Riga was killed on the sidewalk as a BMW swerved out of control on the ice. All the deaths occurred during daylight hours.
With northwesterly winds reaching up to 27-32 meters per second, drivers found it difficult to stay on the road.
"I was riding my bike along the side of the road, and I could hardly see anything," said Vitalijs, who was on his way back from work Saturday evening when the storm hit.
Because of the Nov. 18 holidays, most people were at work on Saturday, resulting in far more cars on the road than usual.
"Cars were swerving across the road, people drive crazy enough when there's no snow, and they try to drive the same when there is snow, it was awful," explained Vitalijs.
Fire and rescue services in Latvia were on constant alert during the storm, answering over 150 calls for help around the country.
Ten fires broke out and several people were injured before firefighters were able to make it to the scene. Power outages were also reported throughout the Baltics.
Meteorologists warned of heavy flooding in Riga's coastal regions due to high-winds and heavy snowfall. Preventative sandbagging and other works have begun in preparation for what may be the first flood of 2008 as the large amount of snow starts to melt.
The Estonian Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, meanwhile, predicted wind speeds of 29 meters per second in Estonia and 4 to 7 meter-high waves in the Gulf of Riga.
In the center of Tallinn a roof collapsed under the weight of the heavy snows. A SEB bank satellite dish fell off the roof of their high-rise onto the street. No one was hurt.
Tallinn area residents had to wait three hours for a taxi. Flights were cancelled, public transport was slowed significantly and crews worked around the clock to clear streets and sidewalks.
For some, this was the least of their worries. In the village of Kiili, about 700 children who were participating in a dance contest were left stranded as roads were unable to be cleared.
Lithuania, though not hit as hard as the northern countries, saw its fair share of cars run off the road and become trapped in the snow.
The cyclone centered above Ukraine caused both heavy rains and snowstorms in Ukraine, Bulgaria and Romania before heading northward to the Baltics.
More snow storms are also predicted as high winds blow in easterly storm clouds, with temperatures ranging from zero to minus four degrees Celsius as the original cyclone subsides.