Snowfall disrupts surface, air traffic

Snowfall across Kashmir on Saturday cut off the valley from the rest of the world as both surface and air traffic were disrupted by the inclement weather.

The snowfall led to closure of the 270-kilometre Srinagar- Jammu National highway and cancellation of all flights for Saturday at the Srinagar International Airport. However, the wet spell also saw an end to the dry and cold phase as there has been a major improvement in the night temperatures, which had seen a free-fall since January 12 touching a record low.

On Saturday, people woke up to a blanket of snow as it started snowing in summer capital Srinagar and parts of north Kashmir during wee hours. The intensity and distribution of the snowfall picked up as the day passed and parts of central and south Kashmir also received a moderate snowfall during the day.

The Meteorological Department (MeT) has said that an “improvement in weather is likely from Sunday afternoon”. Saturday’s snowfall was the third major wet spell of this season, as a heavy snowfall was received on January 4 and 5. The administration had come under criticism for slow snow clearance earlier this month and people on Saturday also complained of massive traffic jams due to accumulation of snow. 

However, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Pandurang K Pole told the Greater Kashmir that snow clearance was underway on all important roads of the Valley. The Div Com said more than 275 snow clearance machines of the Mechanical Engineering Department and several other machines of Roads and Buildings Department and the civic bodies such as Srinagar Municipal Corporation were pressed into service to clear the snow from roads. “Our men and machinery are on the job. As of now we are ensuring to clear snow from all vital roads leading to hospitals, etc. and gradually rest of the roads as well,” Pole said. The Div Com said there were power disruptions at several places but added that it was being ensured that restoration happens as early as possible.

As per the data shared by the MeT department, “moderate snowfall was received in most parts of Kashmir Valley with heavy snow over Sadhna Top in higher reaches of Kupwara, which recorded more than 2.5 feet of snowfall.” As per officials, all the three heavy snowbound roads Karnah-Kupwara, Machil-Kupwara and Keran-Kupwara were closed for traffic.

The MeT bulletin said Z-Gali in the higher reaches of Kupwara recorded more than 1.5 feet of snowfall till the evening even as the MeT forecast said it will continue to snow till late Saturday night.

“Plains of Kupwara and Baramulla recorded almost 10 to 12 inches of snowfall while Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal received more than 10 inches of fresh snowfall till evening,” a MeT official said. He said ski-resort Gulmarg in Baramulla recorded more than 1.5 feet of snowfall while Pahalgam in south Kashmir recorded almost 10 to  inches of fresh snow. Aharbal in Kulgam received more than 1.5 feet of snowfall while plains of south Kashmir also recorded fresh snowfall of more than 10 to 12 inches till the evening. MeT officials said Pir Ki Galli recorded more than 1.5 feet of fresh snowfall. While it stopped snowing in north Kashmir in the evening, Srinagar, south and central Kashmir parts continued to receive a light snowfall till late evening. Meanwhile, plains of Jammu, Ramban and other districts received moderate rainfall, MeT officials said. The MeT forecast said “there would be a significant improvement in the weather across J&K from Sunday afternoon after which dry weather is expected till January 31.” 

Highway closed, all Saturday flights cancelled:

The heavy snowfall near the Jawahar Tunnel and other parts of the 270-kilometre Srinagar- Jammu National Highway lead to its closure on Saturday. Traffic officials told Greater Kashmir hundreds of vehicles were left stranded after the highway was closed for traffic due to accumulation of snow and landslides at shooting stones, mudslides at multiple places. Last week, the highway was closed for more than a week after a retaining wall of Kelamorh bridge had caved in. However, installation of a Bailey bridge by the Border Roads Organisation had helped to restore traffic. Meanwhile, a traffic advisory issued here on Saturday said “no traffic movement will be allowed from either side on Sunday in view of shooting stones, mudslides at several places on National Highway and snow accumulation at several places”. The Mughal Road and Srinagar-Leh highway already remain closed due to accumulation of snow.

The snowfall which started in the morning and continued till late evening resulted in cancellation of all flights at the Srinagar International Airport scheduled for Saturday. Airport officials said all flights were cancelled on Saturday “due to accumulation of snow on the runway and poor visibility due to snowfall”. There was a huge rush of stranded passengers at the Srinagar Airport due to the flight cancellations. However, Airport officials said the flight operations for Sunday “depend on the weather conditions and visibility in the morning”. 

Respite from cold wave:

The fresh spell of snowfall has brought relief from the cold wave which the Valley was reeling under for the last ten days. Temperatures had plummeted to as low as minus 8.4 degrees Celsius in Srinagar breaking a 29 year old year. Low sub-zero temperatures have been causing water bodies including parts of Dal Lake to freeze. However, cloudy weather conditions since Friday night brought a major improvement in the temperatures as summer capital Srinagar recorded minus 2 degrees Celsius on Friday night. It was for the first time since January 12 night that the temperature which had kept plummeting below minus 6 degrees saw an improvement. Ski-resort Gulmarg recorded minus 4.8 degrees while Pahalgam in south Kashmir recorded minus 1.3 degrees Celsius on Friday night. However, the snowfall caused day temperatures to fall as Srinagar on Saturday recorded 2.4 degrees and Gulmarg recorded minus 2.3 degrees maximum temperature on Saturday. 

Avalanche warning issued:

The Disaster Management Authority of the J&K government in view of the moderate to heavy snowfall on Saturday issued a medium danger (yellow alert) avalanche warning for upper reaches of Poonch, Rajouri, Ramban, Doda, Kishtwar, Anantnag, Kulgam, Baramulla, Kupwara, Bandipora, Ganderbal and Kargil districts.