NH closed near Banihal, 700 vehicles stranded

Snowfall at Patnitop, Mata Vaishnodevi shrine
*Day temp falls below normal in Kashmir

Gopal Sharma /Fayaz Bukhari

JAMMU/ SRINAGAR, Feb 1: While Trikuta hills of Mata Vaishnodevi, tourist resort of Patnitop and other higher reaches across Jammu and Kashmir experienced snowfall last night, the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway was closed for traffic this morning due to a landslide near Banihal in Ramban sector.
The highway also witnessed fresh snowfall at several places in Banihal, Qazigund and Patnitop along old alignment, over 700 vehicles said to have been stranded in Ramban, Banihal, Nashri, Chenani, Kud and Udhampur areas of the highway. Scores of passengers have also been affected and stranded in Ramban sector, the sources said
Srinagar and other plain areas of Kashmir received season’s first snowfall today while hills received heavy downpour and day temperatures across the region fell several notches settling below normal for the first time this winter.
The snowfall in the plain areas began last night and continued till the morning at most places while in the hills it was continuing during the day.
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It started as a mix of rain and snow late last night in Srinagar and other adjoining areas in the plains and by the morning, the Valley was covered under a blanket of snow.
An official spokesman said that the landslide took place at around 5 am in Sherbibi area near Banihal on Thursday. It was raining through out the night in the sector. A large portion of the road was damaged with it.
The restoration work was launched but it was disrupted due to frequent rain. Till late this evening the highway could not be restored but some stranded light passenger vehicles were cleared in the evening. The highway was again closed by the authorities for traffic movement.
The Traffic Police advised people to avoid journey on the highway till the weather improves and the road is cleared.
Meanwhile, the high altitude areas of Jammu province, including Shri Mata Vaishno Devi shrine atop the Trikuta hills in Reasi district, received fresh snowfall this morning.
Officials said moderate to light rains also lashed the plains of the Jammu region.
“Fresh snowfall was witnessed in and around the Bhawan of Mata Vaishnodevi, Hathi Matha and Bhairon Ghati areas. Trikuta hills were covered with a blanket of snow this morning,” the sources said.
Despite the snowfall, the pilgrimage to the shrine remained unaffected, with hundreds of pilgrims departing from the Katra base camp this morning.
Due to rain and bad weather, the helicopter service remained suspended fro base camp Katra to Himkoti Helipad near the Shrine.
Apart from Vaishno Devi, the mountains of Kishtwar, Doda, Reasi, Ramban, Kathua, Rajouri and Poonch, including the Mughal Road, experienced snowfall.
Kud-Patnitop-Batote road was blocked after fresh snowfall over night. However, the road was cleared by this afternoon. At Natha Top and Patnitop , a rush was tourists has been witnessed. The authorities were allowing light vehicles with restrictions due to slippery road conditions and blockade.
Authorities have warned people about the potential risk of landslides and shooting stones on vulnerable spots along highways and urged them to avoid unnecessary travel.
The hills around the Patnitop hill resort also experienced snowfall. In Jammu, Kathua and Samba areas, rains accompanied by light winds marked the end of over a month of dry and chilly foggy conditions.
“Rains have ended the extreme cold conditions, providing relief to the residents,” a MeT official said.
Heavy snowfall and rain are forecasted in Kishtwar district, posing risks of landslides and disruptions on National Highways and hilly roads, official said.
Dera- Ki- Gali in Thannamandi area of Rajouri also experienced fresh snowfall. With this, the Rajouri-Thanna-Bafliaz road was closed. Loran, Sawjian and Bhimber Gali on Rajouri-Poonch highway also witnessed fresh snowfall. The snow was removed and the road restored after brief suspension of traffic during morning hours today.
Reports from Udhampur said that Latti-Dudu-Shivgalli and Pancheri areas received light snowfall today. The local tourists have started moving to these areas. Bhaderwah town and its higher reaches have also experienced first snowfall of the season.
The reports of snowfall have also received from higher reaches of Mahore, Gool-Gulabgarh and Sungri- Chasana besides Banihal, Ramban, Doda, Kishtwar and Bani sub Division of Basohli.
Meanwhile, an official said that Srinagar city recorded 1-2 inches of snowfall; Budgam 1-4 inches; Ganderbal district 1-3 inches; Anantnag town 4 inches while Pahalgam tourist resort in the district recorded 9 inches of snow; Koernag in the district 11 inches and Verinag 10 inches; Pulwama town received 1-2 inches of snowfall, Tral in the district 4 inches; Kulgam town had 3 inches of snowfall, Aharbal one foot and Yaripora in the district 5 inches; Shopian town recorded 4-5 inches Herman area in the district 6 inches; Sadna Pass in Kupwara district received 4 – 5 feet of snow, Karnah upper areas 1.5 to 2 feet, Macchil 1-2 feet, Chowkibal 1-1.5 feet while Kupwara town had 4 inches of snowfall; Baramulla town had 3 inches, Gulmarg 2 feet; Gurez in Bandipora district 2 to 2.5 feet of snowfall.
It was the season’s first snowfall in the plains of Kashmir, including Srinagar, which had experienced little precipitation so far this winter.
Kashmir witnessed a prolonged dry spell this winter with the Chilla-i-Kalan when the chances of snowfall are maximum and most frequent, remaining dry.
Mughal Road and the Srinagar-Leh highway are closed for traffic due to snow accumulation since yesterday.
The MeT Office has said the weather would remain cloudy with light snow at few places till the afternoon and there would be a gradual improvement thereafter.
“On Friday, the weather is likely to remain dry with a possibility of very light snow at isolated higher reaches”.
“There is a possibility of light to moderate snow/rain (in Jammu) at many places of J-K on February 3-4, and the weather is likely to remain dry thereafter till February 12,” the MeT office said.
Srinagar city recorded a minimum temperature of 0.2 degrees Celsius – down from 2.2 degrees Celsius the previous night.
Pahalgam recorded a minimum temperature of minus 4.1 degrees Celsius, Qazigund minus 0.4 degrees Celsius, Kokernag minus 1.4 degrees Celsius and Kupwara minus 0.7 degrees Celsius.
Gulmarg registered a low of minus 7.6 degrees Celsius and was the coldest place in the Valley.
With snowfall, the day temperatures across Kashmir plummeted below normal.
Srinagar recorded a maximum of 6.5 degree Celsius temperature today which was 2.4 degree Celsius below normal, Qazigund 3.2 degree Celsius which is 5.3 degree Celsius below normal, Pahalgam 1.1 degree Celsius which is 4.5 degree Celsius below normal, Kokernag 2.6 degree Celsius while Gulmarg a maximum of minus 2.6 degree Celsius which is 4.0 degree Celsius below normal for the place during this time of the year.
Winter capital Jammu recorded a minimum temperature of 7.2 degrees and maximum 17.1, Katra a maximum temp of 10.5 and minimum 4.1 degrees, Bhaderwah maximum 8.4 and minimum 0.2 while Banihal maximum 2.0 and minimum0.2 degree C temperature today.
An official spokesman said that 11 flights were delayed due to poor visibility and bad weather in Jammu area and parts of northern region today. He said six IndiGo, three Spicejet and one Air India and one Vistara flights wre delayed today at Jammu airport.

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