As Kashmir received this year’s first snowfall on Sunday, it disrupted both the surface and the air traffic cutting off region from the outside world.
The Meteorological Department has predicted “heavy to very heavy” snowfall during Monday and Tuesday, while issuing an avalanche warning for the Valley higher reaches.
Heavy snowfall near the Jawahar Tunnel and shooting stones, landslides at various places on the 270-kilometre Srinagar-Jammu National highway since Saturday night caused suspension of traffic, leaving hundreds of vehicles stranded, officials said. Besides, all routine flights at the Srinagar International Airport on Sunday got cancelled due to the inclement weather.
As per Met department officials, Valley higher reaches have received a heavy snowfall, while it continued snowing till late Sunday night in the plains, especially parts of south and central Kashmir. South Kashmir higher reaches received snowfall of 2 to 3 feet deep, officials said. Parts of south Kashmir including Shopian received 1 to 1.5 feet of fresh snowfall.
People in summer capital Srinagar also woke up to a blanket of snow. Light to moderate snowfall at Sadhna Top, Z-Galli, Zojila Pass and other upper reaches was received, while Srinagar recorded more than 10 to 12 inches of deep snowfall. The ski-resort Gulmarg in Baramulla recorded more almost 1 feet deep snowfall, MeT officials said.
Slippery road conditions due to the snow caused huge inconvenience to commuters, who complained that snow clearance in many places was either slow or not taking place. However, officials said 211 snow clearance vehicles were pressed into service for clearance of snow from roads in Srinagar and all inter-district routes, towns of the Valley.
MeT predicts heavy snowfall:
As per the MeT forecast, “another spell of moderate to heavy snowfall” was likely to continue for the next three days till Wednesday. “We expect heavy to very heavy snowfall mainly during Monday afternoon till Tuesday especially in south Kashmir, Poonch , Rajouri, Banihal- Ramban axis,” the MeT forecast said.
The MeT has issued an alert for landslides in hilly areas while the Disaster Management Authority has also issued a medium-level avalanche warning for upper reaches of Poonch and Kishtwar. A low-level avalanche warning has also been issued for several other Valley higher reaches.
The snowfall has also led to a drop in day temperatures as it plummeted to 3.2 degrees Celsius in Srinagar on Sunday. Gulmarg recorded a sub-zero temperature at minus 1 degrees while Pahalgam recorded 5.2 degrees Celsius on Sunday.
Highway closed, flights cancelled:
As the incessant snowfall on Saturday caused closure of 270-kilometre Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, Traffic department officials said more than 800 vehicles were left stranded on this road. Speaking with Greater Kashmir, SSP Traffic (National Highway) Jitendra Singh Johar said huge accumulation of snow and landslides had lead to suspension of traffic.
“More than 500 light motor vehicles are stranded at various places especially in the Ramban to Banihal stretch. 200 to 300 heavy vehicles travelling from Srinagar to Jammu are also stuck on the highway” Johar said.
Johar said that landslides at Panthyal, Mompasi and various other places on Ramban to Banihal stretch have also caused closure of the highway. “We urge people not to start the journey on the highway as it remains closed. There is Met department prediction for more snowfall for the next two days. Making the highway travel-worthy once again is going to take some time” Johar said. A traffic advisory said no traffic will be allowed on the highway from either side on Monday. Meanwhile, the incessant snowfall also led to cancellation of all 19 flights at the Srinagar International Airport on Sunday. Director Srinagar Airport, Santosh Dhoke told Greater Kashmir that the flight cancellations happened due to “poor runway visibility and accumulation of snow on the runway”. “The MeT department has predicted more snow for the next two days, which might impact the scheduled flight operations but all depends on runway visibility tomorrow. Men and machinery are on the job to clear the snow from the runway” Dhoke said.