Second major snowstorm leaves drivers stranded

News & Views - February 17th, 2014
second-major-snowstorm-hits-tokyo

A fresh snowstorm in Japan stranded hundreds of cars on a hillside trunk road north of Tokyo as travel chaos ensued in other parts of the country.

At least 800 cars are stranded in national thoroughfares because of the extreme weather, the weather agency said. About 2,150 people have been evacuated from their homes over fears the weight of the snow would cause their houses to collapse, public broadcaster NHK reports.

National Route 18 that runs through Gunma and Nagano prefectures was partly closed as hundreds of cars and trucks were stuck due to heavy snow, an official said.

The congestion extended for several kilometers, an official in the ski resort of Karuizawa in Nagano said.

“We have opened up three community halls nearby for people who were inside the stuck cars, and are now preparing to offer hot meals,” said the official.

“Some drivers have run out of gasoline so they need temporary shelter.”

The temperature fell as low as minus 3.6 degrees Celsius (26 degrees Fahrenheit) Sunday morning in Karuizawa, which received about 90 centimeters of snow. Other areas have been covered in record-breaking amounts of snow.

Commuters going through National Route 4 on the northern prefectures of Fukushima and Miyagi were caught in a 30-kilometer traffic jam.

The transport ministry has started delivering emergency aid including water and portable toilets to stranded travelers.

The snowfall blanketed Tokyo with up to 26 centimeters of snow by early Saturday, a week after the heaviest snowfall in decades left 11 people dead and 1,200 injured in snow-related accidents.

Most snow in the capital had melted thanks to late rain. Tokyoites took advantage of the snow while it lasted and stepped up the snowman game, with Hachiko’s snowy twin and other creatures making a special appearance.

Japan’s meteorological agency said the storm is headed northward, and they warned of heavy snow, storm and snowslides as well as high waves in eastern and northern Japan.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: ehnmark/Flickr