It’s so hot in Moscow that TV and radio newscasters are doing something they never do - talking about the weather.
The weather usually gets scant air time here - the high and low temperature, will it rain or snow, the end. But in recent days, specialists have been hauled out to explain Atlantic humidity fronts and how they smack into anticyclone zones on their way down from the Baltic Sea, and the devil knows what all.
This weather is history, after all, and history here is always news. The mercury has hit 93 degrees Fahrenheit the past few days, the highest Moscow has seen this time of year since 1889.
Don’t mention global warming. A month ago, everyone was wearing parkas; snowflakes were swirling about; Moscow was undergoing the coldest April in 120 years of recorded weather history. Ah, Moscow - the saying goes - city of miracles, city of contrasts.
Moscow does get this hot occasionally, but not until July or August, when sensible people are off at their dachas, swimming in the river or picnicking under the shade of the birch trees.
This is a country where old men and women casually jump into subfreezing lakes in the winter but wither under the slightest unseasonal heat wave. Air conditioning, even electrical fans, are uncommon, and the streets are clogged with leadbelching trucks.
The Health Department announced Thursday that 296 Muscovites have had heart attacks since Monday morning, while 260 have suffered strokes - 1.5 and 2.5 times the usual numbers, respectively.
Everywhere, conversation veers toward the heat and what to do about it. Ice cream is the usual remedy, but the hundred or so ice cream vendors along the Garden Ring Road, who do booming business year round, are as morose as anybody about this heat. Customers are few because the stuff melts seconds out of the freezer.
Powdered-mix soft drinks have taken off as the latest consumer sensation. Coke and Pepsi, though popular, are too expensive to drink in quantity. “My friends and I talk a lot now about which brands of powder are the best, what they taste like,” said Irina Mikhailova, a teacher. “This is new stuff. We don’t know it very well.”
Here too, though, a crisis is mounting. The powder packets hit the shelves and sell out within a day or two. Stores have been sold out for three days, Mikhailova said, with a hint of despair. “Well,” she added, “they say it’s supposed to rain.”