Moscow is getting steamed, and none too soon

In what seems like a repeat of 2006, Moscow is experiencing an unusually early chill and with most apartments hooked up to the city’s centralized heating system residents are just plain cold. Moscow has avoided turning on the heat because of a rule that requires the outside temperature to remain below 8 degrees Celsius for more than five days in a row.

But now sources at Moscow’s city hall say that all Moscow apartment buildings will have their central heating switched on by the weekend, according to the Russian news service RIA-Novosti.

Giant steam plants use underground pipes to heat huge numbers of Moscow apartment buildings. Especially in the thousands of older Soviet era apartment houses, ancient heating system controls are usually rusted into place and could never be turned to regulate the steam heat.

In the knowledge that one you manage to turn heat off it may not come back on again, Moscow residents tend to keep the steam radiators turn on high. Instead of trusting rusty and broken controls, residents open windows when it gets too hot inside.

City authorities do regulate heat somewhat. During the day steam production is targeted toward office buildings and businesses. That means it can get a bit chilly in an apartment. On the other hand, steam is redirected toward the massive apartment living areas at night, making a late night at the office less than warm.

Thank goodness that over the past few years city crews have done a better job in working on pipes during the summer months, although it can be an inconvenience living without days for hot water. In the not so distant past several deaths per winter could be reported just from walking in Moscow parks and along sidewalks.

Until authorites took the problems seriously, residents had to brave falling thru the earth into a pool of boiling water caused by pipe breakage in the lines destined for neighborhood apartments. When the pipes leak, hot water can saturate the soil so thoroughly that the weight of a person walking above is enough to turn the ground into a seething sinkhole.