Forecasters are finally predicting an end to the freeze that has gripped much of Europe this winter and the Prague climate is expected soon to return to more characteristic seasonal conditions. But until now it has been rough going: Radio Prague takes a look at how both commuters and trade and industry in the capital have been affected by this meteorological phenomenon.
Having felt the icy breezes of the past month rushing down Prague metro escalators, it is difficult to believe that just a year ago, much of the Czech Republic basked in a heat-wave, when winter temperatures were recorded to exceed a relatively generous 15 degrees Celsius in some parts. In recent weeks however, as the near-arctic Russian climate swept across the continent, some areas of industry and commerce in the capital were brought to a standstill, with the effects of the Europe-wide freeze being felt by all, from Prague street kiosks to national gas suppliers. Some of the city's commuter population told me of their experiences travelling to work in these abnormally harsh conditions:
Young Woman: "I'm from Northern Moravia, so the trains are late and everything is more difficult."
Young Man: "There were times when it took about 10 hours more to get to school because the streets were covered in ice, so everything was delayed."
However, the icy climate has not been altogether bad news for some of the capital's retailers. Jan Straka, a partner in Prague's 'Debenhams' outlet, said about recent sales:
"At the moment we have already sold out most of our winter stock, just like everywhere else. But, it is true that the weather has positively affected the sale of our final items. People have realised that yes, winter's still here and it hasn't gone away yet, and are buying further winter goods. So there has been something of a positive effect."
It is notably the gas industry which has felt one of the most significant influences from the cold spell, with distribution rocketing due to increased usage by the public. A spokesperson for Prazska Plynarenska Gas Corporation attributed this directly to the recent extreme weather conditions:
"In Prague the highest gas consumption occurred on the 23rd of January, when 9 million cubic metres of natural gas were sold, 16 percent more than the initial distribution last year, and furthermore 60 percent more than the usual average in January. This was made possible of course by the reduced temperatures... yet despite the frost no problems have been discovered in the delivery of natural gas to our customers in Prague."
And so, as this unusually extreme season draws to a close and temperatures finally begin to rise, such affected companies and retailers can gradually return to business as usual.
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