State capital Shimla received the season’s first snowfall while many other parts of Himachal Pradesh recorded low to heavy snow bringing cheer to tourists gathered here during the Christmas-New Year period, but also blocked roads and caused power outages.
Shimla recorded nine centimetres of snow overnight, while neighbouring Kufri received 30 cm snowfall, meteorological officials said.
In upper parts of Shimla district, snow led to the closure of roads in Khadapathar, Chambi, Khirki and other areas. Khadrala in Rohru received 14 cm snow while Jubbar Hatti recorded four cm.
On Monday morning, the National Highway 5 or the old Hindustan-Tibet road which connects Shimla to Kinnaur via Rampur, was blocked by snow at Kufri, Fagu, Narkanda, and other places. The snow was cleared by the afternoon and the road opened for vehicular traffic, the district police said.
In Shimla town, the roads remained functional but became slippery and the police issued an advisory asking people to travel only after considering the risk involved. Road clearing operations are currently underway in snowbound areas of the state.
Parts of Solan district, including popular hill stations Chail, Kasauli and Barog, and the town of Solan also received a few centimetres of snowfall, while the road from Chail to Kufri was blocked by snow.
In Kullu, the Jalori Pass which connects Anni and Nirmand blocks with the district headquarters was blocked by snow, the police said. The Atal Tunnel, which recorded the highest traffic of 5,450 vehicles from both sides on Sunday, was also closed for vehicular traffic following snowfall in the area, the district police said. It advised the public not to venture towards Solang valley, the tunnel area or Jalori Pass until the snow is cleared. Weather officials said that Kothi village on the Manali-Leh highway near the Rohtang Pass received 18 cm of snow.
Tourist hotspots Dalhousie and Manali received 22 and 14 cm snow respectively. In Kinnaur, Nichar saw 10 cm snow and in Lahaul, Gondla and Keylong received eight and three cm snow respectively. In Spiti, Hansa recorded four cm of snow.
Lower regions in the state received rainfall, with Ghumarwin in Bilaspur recording the highest rain of 34 millimetres. Hamirpur and Palampur received 22 and 16 mm rain respectively.
The meteorological centre said that light snowfall is very likely to continue on Monday in the districts of Shimla, Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti and the higher reaches Chamba, Kangra and Mandi. From Tuesday, however, dry weather is expected to prevail in all parts of the state for the next five days at least, according to the weather forecast. To contain the spread of Covid, a night curfew from 10pm to 6am is currently in force in the districts of Shimla, Kangra, Mandi and Kullu – districts which also contain popular hill stations such as Manali, Dharamshala and Kufri. Social gathering restrictions are also in place throughout the state, and not more than 50 people are allowed to congregate at a spot. Earlier, the state government had also ordered the closure of markets on Sundays but this restriction was lifted last week on the demand of hotel and trade associations. Since mid-September, there has been no restriction on inter-state movement for tourists and others.
For the last few days, Himachal has been witnessing the highest tourist influx ever since the Covid pandemic began. Hotel occupancy at popular hill stations shot up ahead of Christmas and the tourist surge, propelled by snowfall, is expected to last till the first week of January, according to people involved in the tourism and hospitality sector.
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