New Year’s weather mess threatens driving, celebrations

New Year’s eve and the first night of the new year promise to be thick with clouds and fog, reducing visibility to 200 meters, as air temperatures rise to melt the snow that fell throughout the land for most of Tuesday and Wednesday.

The fog is likely to dampen the enjoyment of fireworks displays planned by various towns around the country, the moist air threatening not just the visibility of the exploding bursts of sparklers and fire flowers, but also their very ignition.

According to the state meteorological service, snow on the western shores of Kurzeme province had all but melted already by the morning of December 31, while a 3-13 centimeter snow cover in the rest of the land was continuing to thaw.

This was the thickest accumulation of snow so far this season.

The snow pack in Riga increased overnight to Wednesday from just 5 to 11 centimeters thick, prompting plowing and salting trucks to continue their clearing work all day long. The snow measured deepest in Alūksne, where it piled up at 13 centimeters.

Nevertheless, the snow is expected to melt quickly and completely away on New Year’s Eve as air temperatures rise above zero in the east of the country as well, and light drizzles occasionally drip through the fog cover.

Air temperatures on January 1 will be between +2 and +6 degrees Celsius, inching even higher on Friday to between +3 and +7 degrees. Strong winds and rain will further promote widespread thawing of the snow cover.

Wind gusts from the southwest on the 2nd and 3rd of January could reach between 15 and 20 meters per second, even stronger on the coasts.

Road Police were operating on heightened alert on Wednesday, pulling over drivers to warn them of treacherous traffic conditions on wet, snowy and icy roads and to check for inebriated revelers who may have unwisely decided to get behind the wheel during the holiday.

More than a hundred traffic accidents were registered in just the last two days, including eight injured pedestrians, according to State Police spokesperson Diāna Lūkina. The main reason for the widespread mishaps was failure to heed speed limit warnings and maintain responsible distance between vehicles on the road, despite the dangerous conditions.

Thus, since December 23, even in the face of heightened police efforts to maintain traffic safety, there have been plenty of overly bold drivers heading out onto the nation’s roads – a total of 382 traffic accidents, including 40 injuries and six tragic fatalities.

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