Indian-administered Kashmir was cut off from rest of the world for the second consecutive day on Tuesday as the arterial Jammu-Srinagar highway and Mughal road remained closed, while air traffic was suspended due to snowfall across the disputed region.
Nearly 4500 vehicles, mostly trucks carrying essentials to Kashmir, are stranded along the highway at various places.
“The Jammu-Srinagar Highway is closed due to accumulation of snow at many places, especially around Jawahar Tunnel,” an official of the traffic control department told Press Trust of India.
He said snow clearance operations were in full swing and efforts were on to restore movement of stranded vehicles along the 260 kilometre road. Mughal Road, which connects the valley to Jammu division through Shupian-Rajouri axis, has been closed for several days due to heavy snowfall in the region.
The officials said south Kashmir’s Kulgam district received highest snowfall with three to four feet of snow accumulated at some places. Anantnag district has also received heavy snowfall, they said.
Srinagar city has witnessed moderate snowfall for the past three days but snow clearance operations have ensured that traffic movement was going on. But residents in many areas of the summer capital observed that the Indian administration was like always caught in slumber.
Snow clearance operations have been ongoing along inter-district routes as well as major roads linking tehsil headquarters to district headquarters, the government claimed but the picture on the roads was quite the opposite.
The administration has ensured that the essential services are least affected by the snowfall in the city and elsewhere in the valley.
Slippery roads have resulted in traffic jams at some places. The flight operations to and from Srinagar remained suspended for second consecutive day due to poor visibility, the officials said.
The minimum temperature improved in most places in the valley due to the snowfall but still stayed below the freezing point, the officials said.
Srinagar city – the summer capital – recorded a low of minus 0.8 degrees Celsius – up from the previous night’s minus 0.9 degrees Celsius, they said.
The minimum temperature in Gulmarg tourist resort settled at minus 4 degrees Celsius compared to minus 5 degrees Celsius a night earlier.
Pahalgam tourist resort, which also serves as a base camp for the annual Amarnath yatra in south Kashmir, recorded a low of minus 1.1 degrees Celsius – up from minus 6.7 degrees Celsius on the previous night, the officials said.
Qazigund recorded a minimum of minus 0.2 degrees Celsius, Kupwara, in the north, minus 0.7 degrees Celsius and Kokernag, minus 1.0 degrees Celsius.
The MET Office said moderate to heavy snowfall, with isolated very heavy snowfall, was most likely to take place, especially in south Kashmir, Gulmarg, Banihal-Ramban, Poonch, Rajouri, Kistawar and Zanskar, Drass as well as on the higher reaches of Ladakh UT, over next 24 hours.
Kashmir is currently under the grip of ‘Chillai-Kalan’ — the 40-day harshest winter period when a cold wave grips the region and the temperature drops considerably leading to the freezing of water bodies including the famous Dal Lake here as well as the water supply lines in several parts of the valley.
The chances of snowfall are the most frequent and maximum during this period and most areas, especially in the higher reaches, receive heavy snowfall.
While ‘Chillay-Kalan’ – which began on December 21 — will end on January 31, the cold wave continues even after that in Kashmir with a 20-day-long ‘Chillay-Khurd’ (small cold) and a 10-day-long ‘Chillay-Bachha’ (baby cold).