Saturday, March 3, 2012

Helsinki is Melting

A few weeks ago, my sister commented on one of my blog posts:  "I've never seen so much snow in my life!" she said.

At the time, I really didn't think there was that much snow on the ground. Helsinki does a great job of clearing away the snow on a daliy basis. But then I went sledding and skiing and walking in the woods and I realized, there is a lot of snow on the ground!

And now, it's melting. I love that I can actually see most sidewalks now. Here, sidewalks are not shoveled bare, rather, they are shoveled a bit (leaving a layer of flattened snow) and then covered with small pebbles for traction. No salt. My suede boots don't have one salt mark and they aren't all hard and crusty after they dry. Bobcats, dump trucks and other vehicles are always out on the streets clearing away the snow. I'm guessing they take their loads to the sea and dump the snow there?

With the melting snow comes the danger of snow sliding off steep roofs onto pedestrians below. In fact, Lily and I narrowly escaped a snow deluge just a few days ago. But again, Helsinki does a great job of clearing snow--even off of the tops of buildings.

On a regular basis, you see men in cherry pickers working with more men on the roofs of city buildings clearing the snow.

cherry picker 1

It works a bit like this. A guy in a neon yellow vest on the ground--across the street generally (so he can see the guy on the roof)-- uses a whistle to let the guy up top know when he can push snow to the ground below. I think one tweet means stop and two means "all clear!"


(Whistle guy is in yellow to the back right of the photo.)  This is also MY way of knowing when to cross the street or look up for falling snow!

The guy on top pushes snow off the roof and it crashes to the ground with a thunderous boom! From down below, it looks scary as heck to be the guy on top--walking to the edge of a slippery rooftop while shoveling snow. I noticed most of the guys are tethered, but have also seen some who don't seem to be tethered.

close up cherry picker

guy on roof

When this is going on, the sidewalks below are blocked off by horses or warning tape. Our usual walk to school which is a straight shot sometimes takes a few minutes longer as we cross the street several times to avoid the snow clearing efforts of men above.

sidewalk blocks

Oh, they also tow your car away if it's in the zone they are working on and as far as I can tell, there are no signs to tell you when this work will be going on. I think they tow it away and then tow it back when they are done.

car towed

It's 8 C today (quite warm). I imagine the meltdown will continue. I hope it doesn't go too fast--we still have more winter sports to try and more wintery scenes to explore!

1 comment:

  1. They dump some of the snow in the sea but most of goes in "snow landfills". There are a couple on my normal routes, one next to Tuomarinkylä for example. The problem with the dumping snow is that it is very polluted (tell your children not to eat the snow, especially the "old" snow in cities!) as all the pollution from the street traffic layers on the snow that then gets scraped off of the streets. Wherever it's dumped there is a risk to environment and even the ground water. That's also the reason for not dumping it all in the sea. Another problem with the sea is that the snow is colder than the seawater (but still doesn't melt right away) so it disturbs the sealife locally.

    The eagerness of cleaning roofs from snow can be explained with legal issues. It's each houses responsibility to take care of their roof (and the bit of sidewalk in front of the building) and if someone gets hurt by snow the house and the caretaker/maintenance company is responsible. A couple of weeks ago a lady in her 50's dies in Töölö when a load of snow landed on her and the same happened in Kallio last year.

    It seems to be exceptionally warm and early for the snow to melt! Quite often there would be "takatalvi" ("back winter") and you'd get more snow and minus degrees in April...