Govt caught unawares; slow snow-clearing operation causes traffic jams in Srinagar; power supply off
Srinagar: This season’s heaviest snowfall yet disrupted normal life across the Valley, especially in Srinagar where the administration appeared to have been caught unawares as barely four inches of snow, which was not cleared in time because of tardy response from snow clearance machines, caused long traffic jams.
Both land and air-borne traffic was affected in view of heavy snowfall here on Friday. Traffic on Srinagar-Jammu highway was closed in view of the bad weather near Banihal Tunnel and all the flights scheduled on Srinagar airport were cancelled due to lack of visibility for the second consecutive day, officials at the respective departments said.
The state Meterological Department has predicted moderate rainfall and snow in most places across the Valley.
Srinagar recorded a maximum of 0.6 degrees Celsius and a minimum of 0.1 degrees Celsius.
As much as 27.6 mm of snow was recorded on Friday from 8:30 am till 5:00 pm. Pahalgam received about 16.8 mm of precipitation.
Heavy snowfall in higher reaches of Kupwara led to closure of Sadna Top, Z-Gali and Farkayan Top roads for all types of vehicles.
According to the district administration, men and machinery has been pressed into service to clear snow from roads and to meet any eventuality, an official spokesman said. While as control rooms have been established at Kupwara, Handwara, Tanghdar and Sogam to monitor the measures taken by the district administration in collaboration with MED, R&B, MCK and BEACON authorities.
Massive traffic jams were reported across Srinagar city especially in areas around Hyderpora, Rambagh, Natipora, Soura, Lal Bazar and Tengpora. Commuters faced inconvenience in the absence of traffic policemen and lack of snow clearing apparatus.
At several places, locals were reported managing the traffic movement on their own.
Altaf Ahmad Bhat, a businessman, said he was caught in traffic jam for nearly an hour near Rambagh.
“Weather department had predicted snow and rain. This (pointing to the gridlock) shows they had made no preparations,” he said.
Ajaz Ahmad, a resident of Hyderpora, said it took him more than three hours to reach the city center Lal Chowk.
“I was driving at snail’s speed. I left at about 11am and reached Lal Chowk by 2:30pm in an arduous journey,” he said.
Divisional Commissioner Baseer Khan, however, told Kashmir Reader later in the day that snow clearance has been started.
“I have taken a tour of the city centre and we have initiated snow clearing operation in full swing and expect to clear snow off roads as soon as possible,” Khan said.
The vehicular traffic also faced difficulties near slopes like Amira Kadal, Budshah Bridge and Zero bridge. The movement was only possible with help from locals and several personnel from Jammu and Kashmir police department.
The instructions to the police personnel came from IGP SJM Gillani, according to a police spokesperson. “The police department has received directions from the IGP to remain alert to meet challenges or in view of any eventuality,” a police spokesperson said.
Due to snow, several exams scheduled on Friday and Saturday were postponed. According to University of Kashmir spokesperson Faheem Aslam, various post-graduate examinations scheduled on January 7-8 were postponed.
“The dates for these exams would be notified separately,” he said.
Power supply was cut to almost the entire city after the snowfall. Media reports said the 33,000 KV transmission lines from Pampore and Bemina grids have encountered technical snags at some places due to snowfall. Cheshmashahi transmission line has also developed fault.
“There has been heavy downpour since 9 am and power cuts are expected due to faults. We are feeding about 70 per cent supply in the city. In north Kashmir, which has received heavy snowfall, we are feeding about 30-40 per cent of supply and in south Kashmir we are feeding about 50 per cent,” said Power Development Department superintending engineer Hashmat Qazi.
“If the snowfall stops by evening we will be able to restore most of the supply. However, in case of further snowfall, more power cuts are expected,” he added.
Nodal Officer Mechanized Snow Clearance Mushtaq Ahmad Jan, however, told Kashmir Reader that they faced difficulties in snow clearance due to traffic only.
“We cleared snow at several important places, however, as per our plan, we plan to start afresh only by 11pm once the traffic was off roads,” Jan said.
Despite disruptions and inconveniences, there was an outpouring of joy on social media networking sites. People posted ecstatic messages welcoming the first major snowfall in the city.