New Delhi, January 7 (IANS) Moderate to heavy snowfall and rain on Saturday brought much-needed relief for people from an otherwise largely dry winter but caused disruption to normal life, especially in the hill states of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.
Met department officials said on Saturday that cold wave conditions could prevail over hills and plains of north India over the next few days with heavy snowfall being reported on higher reaches of the Himalayas.
Normal life was affected in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand following snowfall and rain, while moderate to heavy rainfall was reported from Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.
Kashmir Valley came to a standstill as land and air links with the rest of the country, as well as inter-district road connectivity, remained suspended on Saturday.
All flights to Srinagar international airport were cancelled on Friday itself.
The Jammu-Srinagar national highway, which is the lifeline to the Kashmir Valley, was closed for traffic following heavy snowfall near the Jawahar Tunnel at Banihal. Hundreds of trucks, buses, cars and other vehicles were stranded on the highway, waiting for the road to be cleared. Vehicles were stranded on several other state highways in the Valley.
Electric power supply throughout the valley was shut because of uprooting of poles and disruption in power supply grids. Even the high security Gupkar Road, where the official residences of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and some of her cabinet colleagues are situated, had no electricity because of massive power failure.
Kashmir Valley police chief Javed Mujtaba Gillani has asked police personnel to assist civilians deal with the hardships faced by them due to the cold weather.
Reports of heavy snowfall in Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Pir Panjal Mountains and other higher reaches have, however, cheered up Kashmiris who were reeling under an unprecedented dry spell during the last five months.
While Sonamarg, Gulmarg and Pahalgam received over four feet of snow during the last 12 hours, Srinagar city recorded over one foot of accumulated snow.
All exams and classes scheduled for Saturday were postponed by the University of Kashmir.
In neighbouring Himachal Pradesh, tourist destinations Shimla, Manali and Dalhousie were cut off from the rest of Himachal Pradesh on Saturday following heavy snowfall overnight, officials said.
Electricity supply snapped in Shimla and Manali as power lines were damaged due to falling branches of trees. The cold weather resulted in the freezing of taps.
According to the Shimla Met office here, popular spots in Shimla like the Mall Road, the Ridge, the US Club and Jakhu hills got more than a foot of snow.
Traffic on the Chandigarh-Shimla national highway was disrupted at Shogi, about 15 km short of Shimla, due to snowfall.
Director General of Police Somesh Goyal said it was after decades that Shimla received so much of snow.
Rain lashed lower areas of Himachal Pradesh such as Dharamshala, Palampur, Solan, Nahan, Bilaspur, Una, Hamirpur and Mandi, bringing down the temperature.
Widespread rainfall was experienced in parts of Punjab and Haryana on Saturday.
Chandigarh and its surrounding areas were lashed by rainfall since Friday evening, with people feeling the chill.
Reports of rainfall were also received from Patiala and Ludhiana in Punjab and Ambala, Karnal and other places in Haryana. This is the second rainfall in the region during this winter season. Earlier, it had rained on Christmas, while the winter season has remained dry otherwise.
Met department officials here said it could continue on Sunday as well.
Farmers in Punjab and Haryana said that the rainfall was good for the wheat crop and other crops.
“There was hardly any rain this winter season. With this rain, the crops will be saved,” said farmer Jagir Singh of Dera Bassi near Chandigarh.
It was a rainy Saturday morning in national capital Delhi also. The city has received 3.4 mm rainfall since morning, the weatherman said.
Winter chill aggravated in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday due to rainfall at some places. More thunder showers along with dense fog is expected to follow.
At least 70 trains were running late and seven were cancelled due to dense fog in parts of north India on Saturday morning, a railway official said.
According to the Northern Railway official, 16 trains including the New Delhi-Kalka Shatabdi Express, Delhi Amritsar Shan-e-Punjab Express, Jharkhand Sampark Kranti Express, Vikramshila Express and Nizamuddin-Chennai Central Duronto Express were rescheduled.