For some 20,000 Beijing cleaners, the New Year holiday was abruptly cut short at about 3 am yesterday, when heavy snow started blanketing the capital's streets.
Li Xiangdong, a Beijing municipal environmental management official, said 492 deicing snow vehicles and 771 back up vehicles, besides more than 10,000 tons of snow-melting chemicals, had been prepared to deal with snowfall this winter.
Saying that heavy snowfall was likely to continue, Li urged other departments to brace up for a "snow clearing campaign" on the first working day after the New Year break.
In Chaoyang district, nearly 6,000 tons of snow-melting chemicals had been used as of 3 pm yesterday, said Fu Huaitao, an official with the district environment cleaning center.
The Beijing Meteorological Bureau said the snow would be followed by strong winds, with a "significant temperature drop" tomorrow. The cold wave will likely continue till Thursday, when the temperature will dip to a shivering minus 16 C, it said.
Beijing, which over the past few years has seen little winter snow, has experienced several falls so far this season, including at least one man-made snowstorm to help ease a prolonged drought.
Beijing Environment Sanitation Engineering Group Co Ltd had pre-used snow-melting agent put on some pilot roads in case the snow would turn into ice during the night.
However, an insider told China Daily that the snow-melting agent could have a negative impact on city infrastructure.
Forestry statistics earlier showed more than 10,000 trees along the city's streets and 200,000 sq m of grassland were destroyed from excessive salt produced by the snow-melting agent in 2005, resulting in an economic loss of about 30 million yuan.
Xinhua contributed to the story