Kashmir, Himachal receive season's first snowfall
Popular tourist destinations Shimla and Manali and their surroundings in Himachal Pradesh (HP) as well as major towns in the Kashmir Valley received the season's first snowfall on Sunday.
The state capital recorded 6 cm of snow, while Salooni in Chamba district got 19 cm of snow.
Further, the lower hills across Himachal Pradesh were lashed by rains, pushing down the mercury by several notches, the weather office in Shimla said.
Hoteliers in HP cheered up in the hope that winter tourists will converge in large numbers ahead of Christmas.
Tourist spots near Shimla, such as honeymooners' paradise Kufri, Fagu and Narkanda, also experienced moderate snowfall, making the hill stations more picturesque.
The Solang ski slopes, 13 km uphill from Manali, and Kalpa, 250 km from the state capital, also received snowfall, the weather office here said.
The minimum temperature in Manali was 1.2 degrees below the freezing point. The town received 18 cm of snow.
Keylong in Lahaul and Spiti district was the coldest place in the state at minus 4 degrees Celsius.
It was 7.2 degrees above the freezing point in Dharamsala, minus 3 degrees in Kalpa, and 0.2 degree in Shimla.
The first snowfall of the season also brought some cheer in Srinagar and other towns in Jammu and Kashmir, like, Badgam, Ganderbal, Bandipora, Kupwara, Sopore, Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam.
The valley was reeling under intense cold conditions due to dry weather for the last 20 days.
However, the intense cold and dry weather conditions brought with them a host of respiratory ailments, including bronchitis, fever and influenza.
Doctors in Srinagar suggest the spurt in respiratory diseases is likely to abate because of the snowfall which will increase moisture content in the air and also raise the night temperatures.
"Nav Sheen Mubarak" (greetings on first snowfall)- this message jammed the SMS traffic of different cell phone services providers in the city.
Moreover, heavy snowfall has been reported from Zojila Pass connecting Kashmir with the cold desert Ladakh region of the state.
The strategic Srinagar-Jammu highway was closed for vehicular traffic Sunday morning because of snowfall in Banihal and Patnitop sectors of the over 300-km long road link between the valley and the rest of the country.
Sonam Lotus, director of the weather office in Srinagar, had forecast that Srinagar would receive the season's first snowfall during the night.
"The present weather will continue till today (Sunday) afternoon during which period we are expecting more snowfall at many places in the Kashmir Valley," he said.
"The weather will improve by Sunday afternoon. We are expecting dry weather from Monday onwards till December 27, when another feeble western disturbance is likely to cause more precipitation in Kashmir."
Western Disturbace is a storm system orginating in the Mediterranean Sea which brings sudden winter rain and snow to the northwestern parts of the Indian subcontinent, chiefly in the Himalayan region.
Lotus said the night temperatures improved throughout the valley because of the atmospheric green house effect.
"The night temperature was 0.3 degree Celsius in Srinagar on Sunday. It was minus 6.6 in Gulmarg and minus 0.2 in Pahalgam."
"The night temperature was minus 6.0 degrees in Leh, while it was 8.4 degrees in Jammu city."
"This is several notches above the corresponding night temperatures at these places during the last one week," Lotus said.
Meanwhile, nine people were killed in a road accident in Kishtwar district of the Jammu region, police said on Sunday.
A senior police officer said a vehicle engaged by the pradhan mantri gram sadak yojana rolled down into a deep gorge around midnight due to dense fog and heavy snowfall.
He said the accident took place at Aski near Wadwan in Kishtwar district, 245 km from Jammu.
A local army unit rushed to the spot and rescued three people of the ill-fated vehicle.
Watch: North India reels under severe cold wave