The prolonged dry spell in Kashmir was broken as the valley received overnight light to moderate snowfall which brought slight relief from the intense cold conditions, even as the flight operations at the Srinagar airport were affected early morning, officials said on Friday.
The snowfall, which was the season’s first in the plains of the valley, however led to the closure of the Srinagar-Leh national highway, the officials said.
While the plains of Kashmir received light snowfall, the higher reaches experienced moderate snow.
The snowfall not only broke the prolonged dry spell in the Kashmir valley, it also brought cheers to the tourists.
Sonmarg tourist resort in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district recorded about 20 inches of fresh snowfall, while the famous skiing destination of Gulmarg in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district received about seven inches, the officials said.
Srinagar received about 1.5 inches of snowfall, Qazigund six inches, Pahalgam five inches, Kupwara eight inches, and Kokernag two inches, they added.
The officials said the plains in Bandipora recorded 2-5 inches, while its upper areas 5-8 inches. The frontier Gurez sector received about 12 inches, while the Razdan Pass about 18 inches.
The Zojilla Pass on the Srinagar-Leh highway also received about 20 inches of snowfall, leading to the closure of the highway connecting Kashmir with Ladakh, the officials said.
They said the Mughal Road was also closed for traffic due to accumulation of snow.
However, the Srinagar-Jammu national highway was through for traffic, they added.
A thick layer of fog engulfed many parts of the valley which led to decrease in the visibility at the Srinagar airport here, affecting air traffic early in the morning, the officials said.
They said several flights were delayed in the morning due to low visibility.
However, the visibility improved at around 11:30 am and the flight operations were started, the officials added.
The snowfall led to the improvement in the minimum temperature across the valley except in Gulmarg and Pahalgam, and brought cheers to the tourists in the valley.
“It feels so good to finally experience the snowfall. We had seen the forecast and were hoping to see some snow. God heard us and we are enjoying," a tourist from Maharashtra said.
Another tourist from Madhya Pradesh said experiencing snowfall was a dream come true.
An official of the MeT department here said the minimum temperature in Srinagar settled at minus 0.3 degrees Celsius, while Pahalgam, which also serves as a base camp for the annual Amarnath Yatra, recorded a low of minus 4.9 degrees Celsius.
The minimum in Gulmarg was minus 5.5 degrees Celsius.
In the frontier Kupwara district, the minimum temperature settled at minus 0.8 degrees Celsius, while Qazigund, the gateway town to the Valley, recorded minus 2 degrees Celsius, he said.
Kokernag also recorded a low of minus 2 degrees Celsius.
Kashmir is currently under the grip of ‘Chilla-i-Kalan’, the 40-day harshest weather period when the chances of snowfall are maximum and most frequent.
'Chilla-i-Kalan' begins on December 21 and ends on January 30. The cold wave continues even after that with a 20-day-long 'Chillai-Khurd' (small cold) and a 10-day-long 'Chillai-Bachha' (baby cold) following it.
The MeT Office has said the weather will remain cloudy on Friday with a possibility of light snowfall at scattered places over higher reaches.
From Saturday till January 8, the weather is likely to remain mainly dry, it said.
Expect further fall in the minimum temperature across J-K and the days will be warmer and the nights colder, the MeT Office added.