The latest cold front over the weekend saw snow and sleet sweep across the country, stranding thousands of people on highways and disrupting travel plans for thousands more as flights were delayed.
As if to usher in 2011, snow and sleet fell on New Year’s Eve in Southwest China’s Guizhou province before spreading to the western part of neighboring Hunan province, local weather officials said.
On Sunday morning, snow and sleet fell over most parts of Guizhou as temperatures dropped below freezing with severe icy patches forming on the ground, prompting highway closures and flight delays at Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou. Zhangjiajie city airport, in western Hunan, also reported flight delays.
As of Sunday noon, Guizhou authorities had ordered the closure of all express highways in the province. Altogether 6,200 people were stranded across the province.
The closures also caused a massive traffic backlog, numbering nearly 1,500 vehicles, in an adjacent area of Nandan county, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, local authorities said on Sunday.
As a result of this, up to 8,000 people were stranded on the highway to Guizhou, Xinhua reported.
The National Meteorological Center (NMC) forecast that snow and sleet would continue until Sunday night, with heavy snow expected in parts of Guizhou and Hunan.
The widespread snow and sleet could help ease drought in those areas, the center said.
Meanwhile, heavy snow blanketed northwestern, central and eastern areas of the country including Gansu, Ningxia, Shaanxi, Hubei and Jiangxi.
On Sunday, Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region witnessed the steepest plunge in temperature so far this winter, according to the local meteorological office.
Urumqi, the regional capital, recorded its lowest temperature at -24 C, while the temperature in the Altay region, the most northerly part of Xinjiang, dropped to – 42 C.
Most parts of Altay also saw heavy accumulation of snow, in some areas as much as 65 cm, easily surpassing the average record for this time of year.
The extreme weather will last until Tuesday, the local meteorological office said on Sunday.
In Northeast China, snow was a constant feature over the weekend. Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province, recorded 11 days of non-stop snow, the longest ever period for December.
In sharp contrast, Beijing was unlikely to experience significant snow over the next four or five days, the city’s meteorological bureau said on Sunday.
This week, a cold front will embrace most parts of the country, from west to east, the NMC said on Sunday.
Xinhua contributed to this story.