The hill states of northern India witnessed snowfall and light rain on Friday under the influence of a western disturbance, causing the closure of roads and impacting flight operations even as the plains saw a rise in minimum temperatures.
In the national capital, the minimum temperature was recorded at 10.6 degrees Celsius, three notches above the normal, while the maximum is expected to hover around 22 degrees Celsius.
Minimum temperatures in most places of Haryana and Punjab on Friday registered a slight increase giving relief to people from severe cold weather conditions.
In Haryana, Ambala registered a low of 10 degrees Celsius while the minimum temperature in Hisar settled at 9.1 degrees Celsius.
Rohtak recorded a low of 11 degrees Celsius, Karnal 9.7 degrees Celsius, Sirsa 9.2 degrees Celsius and Kurukshetra 10.3 degrees Celsius.
However, cold conditions prevailed in Narnaul, which recorded a low of 7.5 degrees Celsius.
Punjab’s Amritsar recorded a minimum temperature of 10 degrees Celsius, Ludhiana 10 degrees Celsius, Patiala 8.6 degrees Celsius, Pathankot 10.5 degrees Celsius, Faridkot 9.5 degrees Celsius and Mohali 9.4 degrees Celsius.
Bathinda, on the other hand, experienced a cold night with a low of 7 degrees Celsius.
Snowfall and rain lashed land subsidence-hit Joshimath in Uttarakhand, intensifying the cold and adding to the woes of people living in temporary relief camps.
Apart from Joshimath, located at around 6,000 feet, many famous locations in the higher altitudes of Chamoli district, including Badrinath, Hemkund Sahib, Nanda Devi National Park and the Valley of Flowers, also witnessed snowfall.
The famed Kedarnath temple in Rudraprayag district was covered with snow.
As a result of snowfall in the mountains, icy winds swept across the plains of Uttarakhand while the state capital Dehradun also woke to an early morning drizzle.
Kashmir too witnessed fresh snowfall on Friday that led to the closure of the Srinagar-Jammu national highway and impacted flight operations to and from the Valley.
Snowfall was recorded in the tourist towns of Pahalgam and Gulmarg, as well as in Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian, Pulwama, Budgam, and the upper areas of Kupwara, Ganderbal and Srinagar.
Traffic movement on both sides of the Srinagar-Jammu national highway — the all-weather road connecting Kashmir with the rest of the country — was stopped due to snowfall and shooting stones between Ramban and Banihal, officials said.
Moreover, flight operations at the Srinagar airport were affected due to snowfall and low visibility, they added.
Minimum temperatures rose in Kashmir but still settled below the freezing point across the Valley. Srinagar recorded a minimum temperature of minus 0.1 degrees Celsius on Thursday night — up from minus 1.4 degrees Celsius the night before.
Qazigund, the gateway to the Valley, registered a low of minus 0.6 degrees Celsius. Kokernag in south Kashmir recorded a low of minus 1.4 degrees Celsius, while the minimum temperature in Kupwara settled at minus 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The mercury in Pahalgam, in the Anantnag district, which serves as a base camp for the annual Amarnath Yatra, settled at minus 2.9 degrees Celsius.
The minimum temperature at Gulmarg in Baramulla district was minus 7.6 degrees Celsius.
The meteorological office had forecast wet weather in Jammu and Kashmir from January 19 to 25 due to western disturbances.
It said there were chances of light to moderate rain or snow in parts of Jammu and Kashmir on Friday and Saturday.
The weather office predicted a much higher intensity of precipitation from January 23 to 25, with a possibility of moderate snow in the plains of Kashmir, and moderate to heavy snow over the middle and higher reaches and rains in Jammu.
Kashmir is currently under the grip of ‘Chillai Kalan’, the 40-day harshest weather period when chances of snowfall are maximum and most frequent.
Chillai Kalan begins on December 21 and ends on January 30. The cold wave continues even after that with a 20-day-long ‘Chillai Khurd’ and a 10-day-long ‘Chillai Bachha’ following it.
The higher reaches of Himachal Pradesh witnessed light to moderate snowfall while intermittent rains occurred across the state under the influence of western disturbances, leading to the closure of 278 roads.
Jalori Jot and Rohtang Pass in Kullu received 60 and 45 cm of snow respectively while the south portal of the Atal Tunnel and Chansel each witnessed 30 cm of snowfall.
Chaurdhar and Dodrakwar recorded 25 cm of snow, Khadrala 16 cm and Jakho peak in Shimla and adjoining areas of Kufri received three to 10 cm of snow.
Manali, Gohar and Tinder received 16 mm, 11 mm and 8.3 mm of rain followed by Nahan and Bhuntar each logging 5.7 mm of rainfall.
National Highway 3 and 305 were blocked at Rohtang Pass and Jalori Pass while the Gramphu to Lossar stretch of NH 505 was also closed.
As many as 177 roads were closed for vehicular traffic in Lahaul and Spiti, 64 in Shimla, nine in Kinnaur, five in Chamba, three in Kullu and two each in Kangra and Sirmaur districts.
The local meteorological office has predicted a wet spell in the region till January 26 with light rain and snow at isolated places on January 21 and 22 and light to moderate snow at many places in mid and high hills on January 23.
The wet weather brought cheers to tourists and hoteliers as well as apple growers pinning their hope bumper produce.
President of Tourism Industry Stakeholders’ Association M K Seth said the occupancy in hotels is expected to rise from 30 to over 70 per cent by late Friday evening following fresh snowfall in the state capital and its suburbs.