NH blocked, flights cancelled; 6 dead

Lal Chowk in Srinagar receives first snowfall of this season on Thursday. —Excelsior/Shakeel
Lal Chowk in Srinagar receives first snowfall of this season on Thursday. —Excelsior/Shakeel

Season’s first snowfall in Kashmir, parts of Jammu
Major power breakdown in parts of UT
Fayaz Bukhari/ Gopal Sharma
SRINAGAR/JAMMU, Nov 7: Surface and air links between Kashmir valley and rest of the country were snapped as Srinagar and many parts of the region witnessed season’s first snowfall and heavy rain today, leading to death of six persons and resulting in major power breakdown and disruption of normal life across the entire region.
Kashmir valley had season’s first snowfall today while last year the first snowfall was witnessed on November 3. In the last two decades, it was only the fifth time that it has snowed in Srinagar in November with 2018, 2009, 2008 and 2004 being the earlier instances.
Deputy Director Metrological Department Srinagar, Mukhtiyar Ahmad, said that weather will improve from tomorrow noon. “The intensity of snowfall will start decreasing from tonight”, he said.
At least five persons died and around a dozen were injured in weather related incidents across Kashmir. In Srinagar, a PDD employee died when a branch of Chinar tree fell on an autorickshaw at Hazratbal area of Srinagar. He has been identified as Manzoor Ahmad Renu of Rainawari.
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An official said that two Army porters Mohammad Ishaq and Manzoor Ahmad Khan of Zirhama Kupwara who were working for Grenadiers of Army slipped to death in Juma Gund area of Kupwara. Their bodies were later recovered during the night from snow. One person died in Handwara area of Kupwara due to snowfall.
One Jameel Ahmed of Tumulhal in Pulwama district was killed when he slipped from the roof of an under construction Cold Storage at Lassipora Pulwama.
A rescue operation was launched tonight to rescue tourists from a vehicle that came under avalanche at Zig in Gulmarg area of Baramulla district. A vehicle (Tata Winger) bearing registration number JK01S-0300 was trapped under snow avalanche at Zig and two tourists from West Bengal are believed to be trapped. A police team led by SHO Gulmarg, Athar Parvez Malik, was conducting rescue operation.
Operations at Srinagar airport were stopped today as Srinagar was covered in a blanket of snow in the morning. “All flights were cancelled today due continuous snowfall. No flight landed or took off from Srinagar airport,” an official at Srinagar Airport said. Large numbers of passengers were waiting at Srinagar Airport this morning and they had to return to Srinagar.
Srinagar-Jammu National Highway (NH-44) connecting the valley with rest of the country, was closed for vehicular traffic due to heavy snowfall in Jawahar Tunnel area. The road was closed in the afternoon after snowfall in the area. The snow clearance machines were pressed into service but the operation was later stopped due to continuous snowfall.
The snowfall also lead to closure of roads connecting Gurez with Bandipora, Srinagar with Ladakh, Tanghdar, Keran and Machhil with Kupwara. These roads were closed yesterday after snowfall in the hills.
It has been snowing in the hills of Kashmir since yesterday and since last night in the Valley leading to drop in temperatures. Gulmarg recorded over 4 feet snowfall, Tangmarg 3 feet, Kandi Baramulla over one feet, Baramulla town 6 inches, Boniyar 9 inches, Sopore 8 inches, Keran 7 inches, Sadna Top 3 feet, Karnah 6 inches, Furkiyan Top 3 feet, Macchil 2 feet, Z-Gali 4 feet, Kupwara town 6 inches, Bandipora town 7 inches, Sumlaran one feet, Aloosa 7 inches, Sumbal 7 inches, Hajin 8 inches, Gurez 2 feet, Tulail 3 feet, lzmarg 3 feet, Razdhan Top 5 feet, Keller 1.5 feet, Kulgam 1.3 feet, Aharbal 1.6 feet, Anantnag 6 inches, Pahalgam 6 inches, Pulwama one feet, Shopian 1.6 feet, Beerwah over one feet, Budgam one feet, Sonmarg one feet, Kangan 1.6 feet and Srinagar around one feet.
The snowfall led to the snapping of power supply lines with trees falling on them. This led Kashmir reeling under darkness since last night with snowfall snapping, the power lines and administration caught napping. This is for the first time in recent years in Kashmir that there has been such a major power breakdown. There is no electricity since last night and even the essential services are down and they are yet to be restored.
A PDD official said that heavy snowfall has resulted in trees with thick foliage falling down on electrical lines damaging most of the 33 KV lines. He said that even Grid Stations are down and essential services are yet to be restored. This has mainly affected hospitals and water supply.
The official said once the snowfall stops a full-fledged power restoration work will be launched. He said that if weather improves by tonight, power supply will be restored to parts of Srinagar city by tomorrow afternoon.
The official said that first priority is to restore the transmission lines and Grid Stations which will be followed by restoring of HT and LT lines. He said that once the snowfall stops, it will take them 4-5 hours to restore power in parts of Kashmir.
The season’s snowfall also led to massive disruption in traffic in Srinagar. Unruly scenes were witnessed on most of the roads leading to the City Centre due to choked roads and unprecedented traffic jams.
There was traffic mess on Srinagar roads since morning as massive traffic jams were witnessed everywhere. The worst affected were Iqbal Park, Magarmal Bagh, Rajbagh, Abdullah bridge, Regal Chowk, Lal Chowk and Hari Singh High Street areas. It took hours to commuters to cover a few kilometer distance despite majority of the people sitting indoors due to inclement weather and hardly few vehicles plying on the roads.
The administration failed to clear the city’s main roads that led to their slippery road conditions and vehicles being stuck in the middle of roads due to accumulation of snow. In the morning, few snow clearance machines were pressed into service and main roads were cleared by 8 a.m. but at that time there was only 2 inches of snowfall.
As the day progressed around six inches of snow accumulated on the roads and administration failed to clear the snow from the main roads. “It took me two hours to reach Lal Chowk from Rajbagh in the afternoon when normally it takes 10 minutes. The accumulation of snow has caused slippery conditions as no snow clearance machines were operated during the day”, said Zubair Ahmad.
Even Rambagh-Jehangir Chowk flyover was covered in snow and no clearance was done leading to traffic jams as commuters could not use it.
Bilal Ahmad from Ganderbal said that he dropped a patient at Bone and Joints Hospital in Srinagar and left for home at around 2:45 p.m. “It took me around 3 hours to reach Eidgah on way to home as snow accumulation has caused slippery road conditions. I don’t know whether I will reach Ganderbal or not”, he told Excelsior.
Even the roads leading to Srinagar’s SMHS Hospital and SKIMS Hospital were not cleared during the day. “In case of a medical emergency, a patient can’t reach these hospitals due to lack of snow clearance”, said Waqar Ahmad, a resident of Rambagh.
Even the snow clearance on Baramulla-Srinagar and Srinagar-Qazigund portion of NH-44 was not done during the day leading to traffic jams. The clearance was done on Baramulla-Srinagar portion during the morning and during the day it was left unattended. At several places, trees had also fallen on the highway between Baramulla and Narbal.
In Malgangpora Pulwama, a bridegroom hired snow clearing machine to travel to Tral in Awantipora area of Pulwama to get his birde. And another bridegroom in Ratnipora, Pulwama area was unlucky as snowfall delayed his marriage.
The snowfall has led to uprooting of trees and falling of tree branches causing damage to houses and vehicles. A houseboat at Chinar Bagh Srinagar was also damaged when a Chinar branch fell on it.
The orchards suffered huge damage as the branches of apple, plum, pear, walnut, apricot and other trees broke due to snowfall. In Shopian area the standing apple crop also suffered damage. The damage to the orchards is estimated to be in hundreds of crores.
Reports from Jammu said that heavy rain and snowfall at many places since yesterday created havoc, claiming one life in Reasi while Jammu- Srinagar National Highway and Kishtwar-Sinthon-Anantnag road have been closed, whereas several flights at Jammu airport were affected due to cancellation of flights to Srinagar.
The heavy rain across the region snapped power supply to many parts of Jammu city and other districts while many far-flung and snow bound areas were plunged into darkness. Several link roads have also been closed due to landslides and fresh snowfall at Pir Panjal, Seoj Dhar, Natha Top, Patnitop, Shivgali in Dudu-Basan-tgarh, parts of Bhaderwah-Doda, Gool-Mahore in Reasi besides Poonch and Rajouri belt.
The chopper service to Mata Vaishno Devi shrine from base camp Katra remained suspended through out the day today due to rain and bad weather. The battery- car service to the Shrine also remained non-operational while Yatra continued despite rain through both the routes.
The traffic on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway came to halt this afternoon due to snowfall in Jawahar Tunnel area and shooting stones at several places between Ramban and Banihal. The mudslides at Bali Nallah near Udhampur also blocked the road in Udhampur-Chenani section of the highway. Season’s first snowfall was experienced at Patnitop, Natha Top, Latti and Dudu area today besides some upper reaches of Bhaderwah and Bani Sub Division. Slippery road conditions and continuous snowfall in Jawahar Tunnel area has forced the authorities to suspended movement of traffic from Qazigund side to Banihal and Ramban. The Batote-Kishtwar and Bhaderwah road was operational.
SSP Traffic, National Highway, J S Johar said that after weather advisory, the movement of traffic from Jammu to Srinagar from Udhampur onwards was stopped. No movement of traffic was allowed from Qazigand side to Jammu as well. He said the stranded trucks and other vehicles between Ramban-Chanderkote and Banihal area were cleared. He said Kishtwar-Sinthon Top-Anantnag road was also closed today due to heavy snowfall. Singh said the vehicle operators have been advised not to leave from Jammu or Srinagar before contacting Traffic/ Police Contol Rooms.
Reports from Reasi said that 30-year-old Nomad, Kala Khan, son of Qasim Din, a resident of Rajouri, presently residing temporarily at Munditop near Pouni, died due to lightening today. He was returning to his hutments in forest area when it was raining with thunderstorm in the area. His body was later removed to Primary Health Centre Pouni. Due to landslides Reasi-Mahore, Mahore -Chassana-Budhal and Mahore-Gool Roads have been blocked.
In Jammu city, water logging was created at many places due to heavy rain since last night and it disrupted the smooth movement of traffic. The power supply remained suspended in many parts of the city due to damage caused to electric infrastructure. This also affected the water supply in some areas. Due to rain the attendance in the educational institutions and also in some Government offices remained thin.
Director Meteorological Department Sonum Lotus said that heavy rain and snowfall in Jammu and Kashmir is due to the effect of Western Disturbances (WDs). He said tonight more snowfall would occur in many hilly areas of Jammu, Kashmir Valley and parts of Ladakh. There will be significant improvement in the weather from tomorrow.
Jammu’s temperature experienced a sharp fall of nearly 10 degree Celsius in past 24 hours and 13 degree Celsius in just past two days. Jammu recorded a maximum temperature of 26.8 degree Celsius yesterday while today it was 16.9 degree Celcius. On Tuesday, the maximum temperature in Jammu was 29.5 degree Celsius. The temperature in Jammu in fact, has gone nearly 8 degree Celsius below normal. The people have declared full winters in Jammu as they took out all the warmers with increasing cold in the region.
The Power supply to Latti-Dudu, Jakhed, Basantgarh and many parts of Udhampur and Chenani has been snapped for the past two days due to damage caused to power infrastructure. Similar reports have been received from other parts of Mahore, Bhaderwah, Gandoh, Bhalessa, Bani, Mandi- Loran and Kandi-Budhal area of the region.