My kingdom for an ounce of foresight

Yury Luzhkov

Image via Wikipedia

A couple weeks before the first snows trickled from the low-slung Moscow firmament, the city’s mayor Yuri Luzhkov announced that he would have no trickles in his town.

The Russian Air Force seeds clouds for the May Day and Victory Day parades, but why stop at “making the weather” only in the spring, he wondered. Why not stop the heavy snows from ever entering Moscow and slowing down its already constipated streets to a standstill? Prevent delays, keep the economy humming along, for just a few million dollars worth of cement powder and silver iodide and a small army of planes.

All sounds totally feasible — I mean, if it isn’t Luzhkov who can stop the kinds of winters that stopped Napoleon and Hitler, I don’t know who can, honestly — except for the fact that, well, it snowed this weekend. And then again on Monday. And again today. It snowed a lot, and there was a lot of traffic and things generally ground in the direction of a halt. So, um, what gives Yuri?

Turns out — whoops! — it’s actually totally unfeasible. Turns out, some meteorologists got together to examine this proposal — seemingly after the mayor made his announcement and probably after the cloud-seeding money was, erm, scattered among the clouds — and said that getting rid of snow clouds was more complicated than Luzhkov may have anticipated. Turns out, actually, that the meteorological center that is supposed to spot the snow clouds on the horizon can’t see all that well because of…tall buildings.

So today, on the heels of a snow storm, Moscow authorities announced they were delaying the start of the cloud-seeding program. (Operative word here: delaying.)

Luzhkov, however, remained defiant, saying he would gather both pilots and meteorologists for a nice chat in his office. “We’ll look for solutions,” he said. And spend more money, presumably.

In the meantime, Sergei Tkachenko, who heads the city planning institute of Moscow, announced today that Moscow would never be rid of its famous traffic jams. The reason? Moscow needs about 350 km more of roadways to function normally, but so little was done over the last fifteen or so years that any road construction is just making up for lost time, not contributing new roadways.

That, and the Moscow city budget has been shrinking and shrinking in the area that Muscovites care most about: alleviating traffic. The road-building allocations have dwindled to the point that no new road projects were started this year, and for next year, Moscow has set aside a third less money than it allocated in 2008.

So for the record, road building budget: shrinking; cloud-seeding budget: growing.

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