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Heavy snow catches capital by surprise

By Du Juan  and luo wangshu | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-21 22:58
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A traffic police officer working in Xicheng district in Beijing, capital of China, Feb 20, 2024. [Photo by Wei Xiaohao/ China Daily]

The first snowfall of the Year of the Dragon blanketed vast areas of northern China, including Beijing, in white on Tuesday, causing some disruption that was quickly dealt with.

Between 5 pm on Tuesday and 6 am on Wednesday, the average precipitation across Beijing touched 5.5 millimeters, with the highest recorded precipitation occurring at the Qingta Station in Fengtai district, according to the Beijing Meteorological Department.

"The atmospheric moisture in Beijing increased rapidly on Tuesday evening, intensifying into significant snowfall. Heavy snowfall in the city center and southern areas led to substantial snow accumulation," said Zhang Linna, chief forecaster at the Beijing Meteorological Observatory. It stopped snowing early on Wednesday morning.

The unexpected snowfall, while creating a pretty picture, affected normal operations in the city for some time. However, the meteorological, transportation and heating departments worked swiftly to restore normal services.

According to national railway operator China State Railway Group's Beijing bureau, trains running from Beijing to Guangzhou and Shanghai, as well as on sections linking Shijiazhuang to Jinan and Taiyuan, were delayed due to the snowfall.

Nearly 100 flights were canceled at Beijing Capital International Airport on Wednesday due to the overnight snowfall, the airport authorities said.

The airport planned to operate 1,216 flights on Wednesday, while 97 flights were canceled.

As of 6 am Wednesday, 45,000 personnel had been deployed for snow-cleaning operations and 6,000 snow-clearing and ice-removal vehicles had been mobilized, ensuring smooth traffic flow during rush hours.

In addition to Beijing, snowfall affected normal life in Hebei, Shanxi, Shandong, Shaanxi and Henan provinces, where expressways were temporarily closed for safety reasons. Traffic movement, however, resumed quickly.

As of 7 am on Wednesday, 190 road sections in 18 provinces and municipalities remained closed. By noon, that figure was down to 154 sections, according to data from the Ministry of Transport. More expressways reopened as the day progressed.

On Wednesday noon, Henan province issued an orange alert for blizzards and took measures to help stranded travelers. Service areas along the highways in Henan were equipped with five days' worth of food and at least 200 sets of warm winter coats to cope with maximum occupancy. Hot water, hot meals, and charging services are being provided to stranded passengers.

Similarly affected by the snow, Shandong province is providing hot water, food and winter clothing to stranded individuals on highways.

The cold front is gradually moving south, with central and southern regions such as Hubei and Hunan provinces set for blizzards on Wednesday and Thursday accompanied by dramatic drops in temperatures, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

A new round of snow and rain is expected to hit central and southern China from Friday, which would last for four to six days, it added.

Zhao Ruixue, Zhang Yu, Shi Baoyin and Qi Xin contributed to this story.

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