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Heavy Snowfall Paralyzes Southern Russia - 2001-12-19

Stormy weather in the Black Sea region of southern Russia has caused power outages and practically put a halt to traffic in the region.

The southern region of Krasnodar is under a state of emergency after strong winds and heavy snowfall virtually paralyzed the area. Russian television reported that as much as a meter of snow had fallen in some parts of the region during the past few days. That is more than last year's entire snowfall.

Strong winds tore down power lines, cutting power to much of the resort city of Sochi along the Black Sea.

Anatoly Chubais, the head of Russia's electricity monopoly, United Energy Systems, flew to Sochi to help with the efforts to restore power to the region.

Russian television showed pictures of the normally warm city blanketed in snow. People trudged through snowdrifts as many local buses were blocked by snow and some commuter trains were halted. Many local businesses were open, but operating in the cold and by candlelight.

Heavy snowfalls in the mountains have led to avalanches in parts of southern Russia. Many roads and highways have been completely covered with snow, stopping traffic.

The situation has been made worse by the fact that there is not enough snow removal equipment to clear the roads.

During Soviet times, Sochi and the Black Sea region were popular with Soviet citizens for their beaches and warm temperatures. But the region's popularity faded in the decade after Communism and many Russians now have the option of vacationing outside the country.

The unusually harsh weather in southern Russia is part of a cold front that has blanketed most of southeastern Europe and promises even more cold weather in the next few days.