A severe winter storm pounded southern Ukraine and Russia’s annexed Crimean peninsula over the weekend, leaving at least three people dead and over 2 million without power amid heavy rains, flooding and high winds.
Storm Brings High Winds, Heavy Rains and Snow
The storm, dubbed a "once in a century event" by Russian weather officials, slammed into Crimea and southern Ukraine late Saturday with winds over 100 km/h. Heavy rains and wet snow also battered areas farther inland through Sunday and into Monday.
Several locations reported over 100 mm of rain, causing floods and landslides. Snow drifts reached 60 cm in some areas.
"The bad weather caused complications on almost all roads in Cherkasy region. According to rescuers, 19 road sections in eight districts were completely blocked." – State Emergency Service of Ukraine
The combination of wet snow and high winds downed trees and power lines across Odesa, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. Almost a half million customers lost electricity just in Crimea, with at least another 1.5 million affected in southern Ukraine.
At Least 3 Dead, 4 Missing as Storm Batters Coast
The storm’s high winds and waves caused significant damage along Crimea’s southern coast, where gusts reached 160 km/h.
- A woman in Yalta was killed by a falling tree
- A man drowned when waves swamped his car in Sebastopol
- Another person died from electric shock in Feodosia after touching a power line knocked down by the wind
Rescuers are also searching for four people missing after going out in boats that capsized near Kerch and Yalta.
Officials set up nearly 80 temporary shelters to house over 1,500 evacuees forced from their homes by flooding and power loss.
Ukraine Officials: Storm Complicates War Effort
As Ukraine continues battling Russian forces in the east, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised Ukrainians Sunday for persevering through both "battles with Russia" and "battles with the weather."
But the country’s power grid, battered by months of Russian attacks, struggled to restore electricity to the storm-stricken south. Critical infrastructure in Mykolaiv and Odesa lost power, with damaged transmission lines hampering repair efforts.
"The situation is complicated by the fact that the capacity of the power system has fallen significantly due to constant Russian missile strikes," grid operator Ukrenergo stated.
The blackouts also disrupted Ukraine’s rail network, vital for transporting weapons and aid. Flooding shut down over a dozen sections of track.
Officials stated emergency crews are working nonstop to reopen roads, rail lines and restore power. But with snow continuing and temperatures set to drop below freezing Tuesday night, they urged residents to prepare for several more days without electricity or heat.
Russia Struggles to Restore Power in Crimea, Southern Territories
In Crimea, occupied by Russia since 2014, over 100 mobile power stations were deployed and electricity imported from mainland Russia through the Kerch bridge in an attempt to stabilize the grid.
But Crimean Tatar leader Refat Chubarov accused occupation officials of downplaying the destruction, stating Monday that full restoration could take "several weeks or even months."
The storm impacted Russia’s southern Krasnodar Krai as well, where around 120,000 customers remained without electricity Monday. Flooding closed several highways and a key rail line connecting Novorossiysk port to the rest of Russia.
Krasnodar governor Veniamin Kondratyev stated Sunday "we are counting on help from other regions," an indication storm repairs could divert resources from Russia’s flailing war effort in Ukraine.
Expert: Climate Change Load on Aging Infrastructure
Scientists stated while it’s too early to directly link this storm to global warming, extreme weather events will worsen as temperatures continue rising globally.
|Power Outages from Storm
|Crimea: over 450,000
|Southern Ukraine: up to 1.5 million
|Krasnodar Krai, Russia: 120,000
"What we’re seeing here is the combined effect of climate change loading more strain onto aging Soviet infrastructure," explained Dr. Svetlana Koroleva of Ukraine’s Hydrometeorological Institute, adding:
"We can expect more frequent severe storms in the Black Sea region which will test the limits of power and transport systems on both sides of the conflict."
With the storm still grinding on Monday, the ultimate economic impacts may not be known for some time. But with Crimea under Russian occupation and Ukraine’s grid remaining vulnerable, many experts believe effects could linger for both sides.
"This was a wake up call for Russian commanders and western countries aiding Ukraine," Koroleva said, warning the need to adapt infrastructure resiliency to climate change is becoming more urgent by the year.
What’s Next: Recovery Efforts Continue, More Storms Possible
Officials expect continued skirmishes with Mother Nature as recovery moves into the work week.
Snow is tapering off, but cold temperatures will freeze and complicate flooding. Teams are working urgently to restore power and reopen roads and railroads.
But forecasters caution conditions remain favorable for additional severe weather over the Black Sea later this week.
"Models indicate a high chance of another strong storm system impacting the region around Thursday or Friday," said meteorologist Ivan Petrenko of Ukraine’s weather service.
Residents are advised to complete storm preparations and remain vigilant for updated forecasts and safety information in coming days. Responders urge avoiding both flooded roads and downed power lines.
With thousands still without power or heat, emergency shelters remain open. Officials continue working to distribute aid, but caution recovery could take well into next week for the hardest hit areas.
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