Snowfall measuring up to a reported 40cm in northern Bulgaria and heavy rainfall cut off electricity to more than 450 000 customers in Bulgaria on January 17, while a number of major roads remained closed by nightfall although all national motorways were open to traffic.
The roads that remained closed by 6pm included the Rousse – Silistra, Rousse – Razgrad – Shoumen and Silistra – Shoumen routes. Lorries were banned from using the road from capital city Sofia to Kalotina at the Serbian border.
The Petrohan Pass, closed earlier in the day, was open but could be used only by cars and lorries up to 12 tons.
Regional Development and Public Works Minister Liliyana Pavlova said that people travelling anywhere in the country should embark on car journeys only if prepared, with the cars fitted with winter tyres, full fuel tanks and with people having ensured that their mobile phones are fully charged.
Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova told public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio in the late afternoon that 450 690 customers had no power because of heavy snowfall and teams from the three energy distribution companies in the country were working to restore electricity supply.
On the territory covered by energy distribution company EVN, there were 160 places, with a total of 147 000 customers, without electricity. The most serious situation was in the region of Plovdiv, where 61 villages had no electricity. In the Smolyan region, 38 places had no electricity.
In the city of Plovdiv, trees and branches were brought down and lines of some parts of the city trolley bus network were brought down. Public transport, howeverm was moving normally. The municipality said that all schools in the city would open normally on January 18.
On the territory covered by CEZ, which is responsible for energy distribution in Sofia and other parts of western Bulgaria, there were 400 settlements without electricity, meaning more than 183 000 customers. The worst situation was in the Vratsa region, where 96 villages had no electricity, and Montana, where 56 villages had no power.
In Energo-Pro’s territory, 397 settlements had no power, with the worst situation in the region of Shoumen, with 68 settlements without electricity, in Turgovishte region, 67 settlements without electricity, and Veliko Turnovo, where 118 villages had no power.
In northern Bulgaria, snow cover was between 16 and 40cm and in southern Bulgaria from three to 23cm. There was no significant snow buildup along the Black Sea. By the late afternoon, however, in Bulgaria’s largest Black Sea city, Varna, rain had turned to snow and there was strong wind in the area, according to BNR.
In the Veliko Turnovo region, a state of emergency was declared in Svishtov municipality. Svishtov’s mayor called on people not to travel by car pending the clearing of roads by specialised military vehicles. Mayor Gencho Genchev said that most villages in the municipality had neither electricity nor water supply.
Sixteen villages in the Lovech region had no electricity. In the region, the Shipkovo – Ribaritsa, Tepava – Brestovo, Goran – Vladinya and Lovech – Goran roads were closed. Snowfall was continuing in the area and in places had reached 40cm.
Schools in Troyan municipality, Shoumen municipality would be closed on January 18 and schools in the towns of Pleven, Nikopol and Pordim would be closed on January 18 and 19, local media said. In the municipalities of Silistra, Dulovo, Sitovo and Tutrakan, schools are to remain closed on January 18, 19 and 20.
Pavlova said that at about 5pm on January 17, the situation in northern Bulgaria was the most critical, because of snow drifts and a severe lack of visibility.
She said that the situation in the Rhodope Mountains was dangerous because the levels of many rivers had increased significantly.
In Sofia, mayor Yordanka Fandukova held a meeting with operational staff about winter cleaning in the city. Fandukova told staff that once main routes in the capital city were open to traffic, snow removal services should be directed to less heavy traffic roads around schools and kindergartens.
Sofia municipality emergency teams had responded to 35 calls about fallen branches and trees, the municipality said.
Sofia municipality said that snow removal services were working to clear ice and snow from pavements and to secure access to all underpasses in Sofia. Fandukova repeated her calls to people to clear snow from pavements in front of their homes and offices to enable pedestrians to walk without difficulty.
A “Code Yellow” potentially hazardous weather warning was issued for January 18 for Bulgaria’s regions of Bourgas, Dobrich, Haskovo, Kurdzhali, Razgrad, Shoumen, Silistra and Sliven, because of strong winds expected in those areas.