Srinagar: The winter chill returned to Kashmir Valley after fresh snowfall broke the long dry spell on Monday with moderate to heavy snowfall reported from the higher reaches as plains too witnessed snowfall and rains.
The fresh snowfall in the valley closed down the strategic Srinagar-Jammu highway due to slippery conditions and landslides, official sources said.
The snowfall also led to the closure of the airport in Srinagar due to low visibility. "Current visibility is 600 metres and the runway was not available up to 10.30 am due snowfall. The situation will be reviewed after that," an official of the Airport Authority of India (AAI) here said.
Later, the Airport Authority said that all flights were cancelled for the day due to low visibility.
According to a MeT official, Gulmarg hill station in north Kashmir received around one feet of snow. While as 17 centimetres of snow was recorded in Qazigund town of south Kashmir. The summer capital of Srinagar received 16 centimeters of snow.
MeT official added that Pulwama received 13 cms of snow while as in north Kashmir’s Kupwara received 6 cm of snow. Banihal received 6 cms while as Kokernag recorded 10.7 cms of snow.
Meanwhile, Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) claimed to have pressed all its men and machinery into service.
“At least 3979 sanitary workers were put on job to clear snow from lanes, by-lanes, shrines, mosques, hospitals and other important destinations in the entire Srinagar city,” SMC officials said, adding that it was also ensured that pedestrian walkways and waterlogged streets including Hari Singh High Street, LD hospital, Batamaloo and other areas are cleared off.
“Besides pressing officials into service for manual clearance, several loaders and JCBs are made available for clearance of lanes and by-lanes if the situation arises,” said Joint Commissioner SMC Syed Abul Qasim under whose supervision the entire process has taken place.
This is the first major snowfall in Kashmir this winter, which was largely dry so far. There was some snowfall in early December last year and since then the weather has been mostly dry.
According to MeT Department officials, the month of January was the driest in terms of rainfall in Kashmir in the past 38 years.
The snowfall meanwhile led to traffic snarls on all major roads as continuous snowfall hampered the efforts of the authorities to clear the snow from roads, officials said. Meanwhile, the minimum temperature across the Valley stayed around the freezing point, except for Gulmarg, the skiing resort in north Kashmir where the mercury settled at minus 4.6 degrees Celsius.
Kargil in the Ladakh region continued to be the coldest place in the state at minus 14 degrees Celsius, while nearby Leh town was also freezing at minus 11.3 degrees Celsius last night, the MeT officials said.
Meanwhile, Director MeT, Sonam Lotus said that the snowfall or rainfall would continue till next 12 hours. However, the MeT director further said that the weather conditions would improve from Tuesday noon.
“The overall weather conditions would improve from Tuesday but light snowfall or rains would occur at isolated places on Tuesday,” he said.
Meanwhile, snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) has issued an avalanche warning for the higher reaches of the valley.
“High danger avalanche warning has been issued by SASE for Baramulla, Gulmarg, Kupwara, Chowkibal, Tangdhar, Phurkian, Z Gali, Bandipora, Kanzalwan, Gurez sector,” a press statement said.
The press statement added that medium danger warning has been issued for Poonch, Rajouri, Ramban, Doda, Kishtwar, Ganderbal, Kargil “Low danger warning for Srinagar-Jammu National Highway and higher reaches of Anantnag, Kulgam, Budgam, Leh, Reasi and Udhampur Districts,” it said.
People living in these areas have been advised to avoid these routes and avalanche prone areas.