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Blizzard blitzes Beijing overnight
( 2003-11-07 23:06) (China Daily)

Beijing residents awoke to some strange sights on Friday after a blizzard blasted the capital city on Thursday night.

Green trees were cloaked in snow and tiny icicles as freezing winds blew leaves in all directions. Even more bizarre was that Thursday's snowstorm was periodically punctuated by loud claps of thunder and flashes of lightning.

A meteorological expert with the Beijing Meteorological Station described the phenomenon as "a rare thing,'' and said it was the latest record of thunder for any year in the city's history.

The expert, Zhang Mingying, said the last thunder of the year is usually heard in late October in Beijing, adding the last record of winter thunder in Beijing was 24 years ago, on November 3, 1979.

He said the rare event was caused by a collision of cold air from a higher altitude with the warmer atmospheric layer closer to the planet surface.

The city's first snowfall of the year brought beauty as well as inconvenience.

Branches on trees lining dozens of streets snapped in the wind or broke from the heavy load of snow.

Residents en route to work by bicycle were forced to pick their way through piles of broken branches on the slushy pavement.

Drivers were equally frustrated by traffic standstills caused by the slippery roads.

Statistics from Beijing Municipal Bureau of Parks indicated around 5,000 trees were uprooted and 20,000 more sustained broken branches.

More than 30,000 workers and 500-plus vehicles have been mobilized to clean up the broken branches and clear the snow-laden trees, an official from the bureau said on Friday.

The official said most of the affected trees are weeping willows, acacia and cypress pines, but no accidents have been reported because of the broken branches.

In the meantime, Beijing Municipal Administration Committee has assigned 15,800 workers and 489 vehicles to clear the snow from more than 800 roads.

The State Meteorological Observatory said temperatures are expected to drop by an average 8-10 degrees across most of North China from Friday.

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