Strong snowstorms hit Japan, 8 dead and several stranded

 Tuesday, January 12, 2021 


A very strong winter storm swiped the west coast of central Japan from late last week into the weekend and covered some areas with more than 3 feet of snow (about 1 meter). According to the latest reports by the officials, at least eight deaths were reported due to the storm, which also wreaked havoc on travel by stranding 1,500 vehicles on a major highway.

The heaviest snow fell along the west-central coast of Japan across the prefectures of Niigata and Toyama. The region has always been no vulnerable to heavy snowfall, especially in the mountains just inland from the coast. However, unusually cold air moving across the region allowed heavy snow to fall down to sea level and in areas that usually do not get this heavy of snow.

The snow depth in the city of Toyama surpassed about 3.3 feet (1 meter) for the first time in 35 years, as per reports. According to the Japanese Meteorological Agency, heavier snow was witnessed further into the north in Takada with an astounding snow depth of 8.2 feet (249 cm). The measurement was taken near sea level which makes the observation rather unusual as snow that deep is typically reserved for the nearby mountainous areas.

Similarly, Fukui City was also hit by heavy snow in Fukui Prefecture, a district along the sea of Japan on January 11, 2021. Japan Self Defence Force officials had to remove the snow from the street as dozens of vehicles were stuck on the snow. Majority of the fatalities resulted as a result of people being buried during snow removal work.

Around 1,500 vehicles were stranded on the Hokuriku Expressway in Fukui Perfection, a toll road that runs along the west coast of central Japan. As of Monday morning, about 100 cars were still stranded. Meteorologists continue to track the threat of more snow across the region through the course of the week, but the snow during the next few days is expected to be pale as compared to the snow that was seen late last week and into the weekend.

Low pressure is likely to bring low elevation rain and mountain snow in many areas of Japan and milder air might cause many of the coastal parts of western Japan that got the recent heavy snow to get rain as the storm moves through. Another storm can bring rain and snow to northern Japan from Wednesday into Thursday as southern Japan is dried out. Milder air this week can also allow snow to start melting in coastal areas.

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