Sunday, 31 July 2011

Not a good July for holidaymakers...

At least for those who decided to spend it in Poland. July 2011 has been one of the wettest Julies in my lifetime, so those who ventured to Mazury or to the seaside did not get a chance to enjoy much sunshine and warmth. If my memory serves me right, there were very few sunny days over the passing month. And a good indicator for my memory is a frequency of watering plants in the garden. I haven’t done it for weeks and this means last weeks must have been extraordinarily wet, as the soil in my garden is rather sandy and it dries up after rainfalls immediately. At least it used to, as for some five weeks it hasn’t had any chance to return to its typical dryness again.

Excellent weather reporting site, run by a Spanish organisation Ogimet, proves my memory does serve me right. Statistics for Warsaw that exclude the last day of July give clear evidence: the minimum temperature of +8.8C was recorded on 24 July, the highest of +28.1C on 14 July, average temperature reached +18.1C, so almost one degree fewer than long-term average, but this year’s July was in turn much colder than those from last years. Last time it was similarly cold in July 2004, when temperature averaged out +17.9C. In 2007 July also wasn’t particularly hot with average temperature of +18.8C, but then we had a hot spell with temperatures hitting +35C interspersed throughout cold (as for July) snaps. This year weather hasn’t been actually changeable. Daily temperature amplitudes have stayed low, weather for most of the month has been the same, even rainfalls have been distributed evenly, and despite high precipitation there has been no big flood, but many minor inundations…

Warsaw saw two days when weather gave its inhabitants particularly rough rides. On Wednesday, 20 July, in the afternoon, a huge downpour paralysed the whole city, but those were the southern districts that got the biggest drenching. I left the office at 17:30, accompanied by two colleagues. One of them looked at the sky, seized up the clouds are predicted some little rain would set in. When I left the tram in the centre I turned back to see the colour of the sky over Mokotów and slightly aghast made my way to the underground. I had had a similar situation on 3 August 2010 and had a precise inkling of an impending downpour. I was right, the rain was so heavy that it was impossible to get out of the underground station. To the right, a road out of Metro Wilanowska bus terminus and P&R at 18:40. I waited a while for the rain to ease off, observed vehicles moving through the puddle to see where it was most shallow and finally drove home. As I was fording my way through the small pond I hit a number plate that had come off another car and a guy in fiat punto who drove in front of me broke off the front bumper of his car. The rest of the road home was all downhill… On many roads in Warsaw water was knee-deep and many cars got stuck in the puddles. I have a recipe for driving through such huge muddles – slowly, but not very – first gear, speed of some 10kmph, 1,500 revolutions per minute – the engine runs smoothly and steadily. Even though, I’m always anxious when I drive and the car encounters too much water – in 1998 during a huge downpour our car then (a one-year-old Rover 214) packed up on the middle, south-bound lane of Al. Witosa in Warsaw. Visibility was low and other drivers speeded despite pouring rain. Fortunately, none rear-ended our car. The cause of that breakdown were defective ignition coils. Last year the ignition coils packed up after two days of driving in heavy rain and through numerous puddles. Mechanics from Renault garage said they had been long overdue for replacement…

The other downpour, wreaking havoc to Warsaw on Wednesday, 27 July again laid bare how badly drained some places in Warsaw are. Heavens opened before dawn and it rained dogs and cats for a few hours. The way to work was undisrupted by any traffic impediments, except for a waterlogged street in Mysiadło. Problems began when I got off the Centrum underground station. To the right – a pavement between the entrance to underground station and W-wa Śródmieście railway station. People tried to waddle through ankle-deep water, yet few risked treading through the area where puddle was the deepest. I tried to pass it by heading towards Pałac Kultury – also to no avail – here only the higher parts of paved area weren’t flooded, but rainwater was running beneath pedestrians’ shoes.

To the right – on the same day – the lasts section of the obstacle course called ‘way to work’ – this is a pedestrian passage between the fence of second underground line construction site and Rondo Daszyńskiego. Even a small precipitation leaves one big puddle between the fence and concrete crash barrier. Pedestrian have to beware – firstly they must watch out for inconsiderate drivers who can splash water from puddles on the road on them and soak them up completely, secondly, as it was many times impossible to walk there, city authorities have put up some plastic steps to let workers from nearby office buildings to tread from one step to another and get into the other side of the puddle without having shoes and socks drenched. Unfortunately, the steps are slippery, I usually don’t risk going there and take a longer route around the whole roundabout, which is not problem-free, as the terrain is anything but flat and water flows into small basins…

I could grumble about the inclement weather, but I have to say I like it. There are some nuisances, such as huge puddles and accompanying air humidity which makes me break sweat even if the temperature is only +20C. (insertion: I wish to lodge a complaint about quality of air inside Warsaw’s public vehicles. In underground carriages and in trams it’s much hotter than outside and, to boot, close. There were years when it was always cool in the summer in the underground and riding it was a pure pleasure, why did it cease?) Actually I got used to such weather and I get on with this. It’s much, much better than unbearable heat of +30C, clear sky and drought, but on the other hand I feel sorry for the holidaymakers. I remember July 2000 when rains fell even more often, average temperature was 1.5 degrees lower and spending holidays when the weather’s so bad is not an enviable experience.


On Friday I went to town by public transport only. Commuting half way by car is convenient, but exudes a feeling of some isolation. My route was not the quickest, but I decided to take a train from Jeziorki (see classic pics of converging tracks) and this involves getting to the station by two buses (no suburban-zone ticket again), to see the progress of construction of Warsaw southern bypass. Much hasn’t changed since mid-June and a fellow SGH student Jakub Warszauer is totally right to claim he hasn’t seen a road with such unequal progress of works. On some sections the road is not ready, but actually passable, on some sections nothing has been done. May the works on junctions speed up and there will be a chance that it is opened in the second half of 2012.

Leaving the office I somehow anticipated traffic will be stationary and my guess was right – see the snap of ul. Towarowa – vehicles moving in snail’s pace in both directions. The same on all streets around, in. Al. Jerozolimskie, Al. Krakowska, ul. Puławska. This is what I call „holiday Friday afternoon jam” – traffic jams on Fridays during holidays are worse than on normal working days when schools are opened. And this makes me ponder upon the factors determining traffic density. Just look – in non-holiday period ul. Puławska in the morning between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m. is totally jammed. In the summer the traffic is not sparse, yet I make it from home to P&R Wilanowska in 20 minutes and drive no faster than 80 kmph. How many car users have to give up on taking this road to make it passable? Given that in my office I observe around 30% of staff are on holiday, some car users don’t have to drop their children to school and some people who normally commute by public transport use their cars, I estimate that the traffic volume is some 35% lower than over the school year. So let’s say if number of cars is reduced by one-third, commuting by car becomes worth considering…

Oddly enough, around an hour ago the sun chased away the clouds, but it didn’t take long, as a big storm cloud is rolled in from the west and the rain lashed down a few minutes ago.

Forecasters say August should bring more sunny days and temperatures typical for summer. Personally I’d prefer the current weather to stay on, but my sympathy for hapless holidaymakers tells me to quell these thoughts and long for some summer heat. It won’t be that bothersome as August nights are shorter and even with day-time highs of over +30C, mornings should salvage us with a cooling breeze…

2 comments:

Paddy said...

Interesting post. It might not make you feel any better, but the Metro in Warsaw is always cooler than any Underground London line, and for that I am always grateful.

May we have a dry, hot August all the same.

ginger said...

Very interesting blog, it really helped me learn a great deal!too many interesting things Dogs training