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Mayor: Fine for faulty forecasts

By CNN's Ryan Chilcote

Should weather forecasters be fined when they get it wrong?
Moscow (Russia)
Yuri Luzhkov
New York

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Moscow's weather has been catching people off guard recently: snow in spring, a flood in summer, a hurricane closer to fall, sun in winter.

Russians thrive on their four seasons, but Moscow's mayor doesn't like surprises.

To ensure it doesn't rain on his parade on City Day, Mayor Yuri Luzhkov dispatches cloud-seeding planes to the skies.

Now he's taking accountability to new heights -- proposing fining the city-funded weathermen when their forecasts are wrong.

"The situation is crazy, just crazy," he told his Cabinet. "They say lah, lah, lah, we can do the job, we always do. If instead, we get -- excuse my non-parliamentary parlance -- crap, they should pay a fine."

Moscow's chief weatherman, Alexei Lyahov, is in the eye of the mayor's storm. "The weatherman is very popular all over the world as I know, and in this way I have some problems," Lyahov says, smiling.

His real problems are no joke, however.

The people who gather the data he relies on have to physically check their instruments every couple of hours, despite the invention of automatic systems. The equipment they use is from the 1950s.

And Moscow has only three official outposts for gathering data. New York City, by comparison, has 300.

Lyahov agrees the quality of his work is lacking. With more money, he says he could do better. He's not even against being fined for fumbling a forecast, as long as he's rewarded with a bonus when he gets it right.

He likes his odds.

"The level of our forecast is about 90 percent. And I think we will have much premium."

We measured the winds of public opinion on the mayor's proposal and found that many Muscovites thought the mayor was out of his element.

"It's not so good for person to be angry for weather, for another conditions, because the main (one) is the weather in your heart," says Madina Kadyrova.

Nikolai plows Moscow's most important road, which the Kremlin's top people use on their way to work.

"They're wrong on the weather often," he says of the forecasters. "They say it's going to snow, and then it doesn't. And sometimes they don't say anything, and all of the sudden it starts snowing."

Adds Vlada: "Maybe (a fine) is a rather good idea, because of course when they're wrong and you don't take your umbrella with you and when it's raining, of course you are embarrassed and you blame the weatherman."

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