Bitterly cold North braces for New Year with snow, rain

New Delhi, Dec 31 : The New Year's Eve Tuesday turned out to be wet and cold for people across most of north India, the hill regions receiving moderate to heavy snowfall and rain lashing the plains. Icy cold winds swept the large swathe from Punjab to Bihar.

After nearly two decades, Kashmir Tuesday received heavy snowfall in the beginning of its 40-day period of harsh winter.

Hill stations like Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg in Kashmir had more than four feet of snow by afternoon. In Srinagar, snowfall started early in the morning and continued till evening.

The strategic Srinagar-Jammu National Hghway was closed in the morning due to heavy snowfall in Banihal and Patnitop sectors.

Flights into the Kashmir Valley were suspended because of heavy snowfall and extremely poor visibility. Train services from the Valley to Jammu's Banihal town was also hit.

"My hands and feet are numb. My nose seems to have frozen," said Suhail, 12, of the Peerbagh area in Srinagar as his mother warmed him with a cup of traditional 'Kehwa' and a charcoal-lit earthen pot called the 'Kangri' that residents keep inside their traditional 'Pheran' over-garment.

Vinod Kumar, 43, who is in Kashmir to celebrate the New Year along with his friends, said: "This is amazing. We have been guessing whether Kashmir would have snow during the New year celebrations, and here we are bound on all sides by such a fabulous snowfall."

The Met Office has forecast 2014 would be ushered in with more snow and rain in most states of north India.

Delhi continued to be chilly Tuesday, with the minimum temperature at 4 degrees Celsius, three notches below the season's average.

Reshma Soni, an employee at Ernst and Young in New Delhi, told IANS: "Monday night was terribly cold. I just hope there is no rain, as it will spoil my New Year plans."

The national capital recorded 6.4 mm rainfall since Monday.

"I am simply in love with the weather here. I going to go out and roam. It is like the one that we experience in London," said Prakash Sharma, who has come to Delhi to celebrate New Year's eve with his family.

Flights operated as normal from Delhi's airports but the Northern Railway reported cancellation of four trains and 12 trains en-route to Delhi were delayed.

A drizzle and chilly winds hit Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, with minimum temperature at 1.7 degrees Celsius, making it the coldest night in many years.

Tuesday's minimum temperature was 0.3 degree in Muzaffarnagar, 1.2 degrees in Kanpur, 1.5 in Hisar that recorded 0.1 Monday, while Chandigarh was 5.6 degrees Celsius.

Punjab and Haryana were lashed by rain and icy winds throughout the day.

Agriculture experts said the rainfall was welcome for the farm sector as it would give relief to crops from the ground frost that had set in over the past few days.

--IANS (Posted on 31-12-2013)

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