- Heavy snow starting Friday caused traffic woes in western Russia
- By Sunday afternoon, backups on a major highway reportedly stretched 125 miles
- Vehicles were finally moving better by the evening, though still only at 3 to 6 miles per hour
- Some travelers griped about price gouging, lack of gas and the response from authorities
If you've ever griped about being mired in a traffic jam, there was proof this weekend in Russia that it could have been worse.
Much, much worse.
The backup Sunday afternoon on part of the main highway between Moscow and St. Petersburg -- the country's two most populated cities -- stretched 125 miles long, according to media reports cited by state-run RIA Novosti news.
Video showed fog, but little evident precipitation after days of heavy snow. Even so, movement along sections of the M-10 highway largely was limited to foot traffic, not vehicular traffic, as trucks and cars sat motionless.
Efforts to clear roads had some impact by early evening, by which time tie-ups were down to 34 miles along the M-10 highway, reported the State Automobile Inspectorate, a division of Russia's Interior Ministry. The length of the traffic jam was shrinking about three-fourths of a mile every hour, a spokesman for that agency told the state news outlet.
That is an improvement, but still a far cry from the "normalization" of traffic that Russia's Emergencies Ministry said would occur by 6 p.m. Sunday, according to RIA Novosti.
An Emergencies Ministry spokesman reported that, by then, one lane in each direction of the M-10 was clear of snow -- allowing trucks to creep along at 5-10 kph (3-6 mph).
Blame for the slow slog goes, at least in part, to bad weather. The traffic headaches began Friday, when heavy snow began falling in western Russia. By the time it finally tapered off, three feet had fallen.
While snow and related traffic woes are hardly unprecedented in Russia in December, drivers had other reasons to complain.
In comments on social networking and news websites, as related by RIA Novosti, stuck drivers and passengers reported cafes along the clogged roadway took advantage of them by ratcheting up prices. Others said some gas stations had run out of fuel, or grumbled that authorities weren't much help.
Video showed an inflatable tent popped up on the side of highway, with tables inside full of people filling up on food and drinks. In addition to hot food and warming stations, the RIA Novosti report noted the Emergencies Ministry was making psychological support available to those having trouble coping with the days-long traffic nightmare.
"(Emergencies Minister Vladmir Puchkov) is making sure that all necessary measures are being taken and that all vital personnel in afflicted regions have everything they need," a ministry spokesman said.