Heavy snow since Wednesday night has proved a mixed blessing for farmers and travelers across north China.
Farmland affected by drought dropped from 552,666 hectares on Jan. 20 to 453,333 hectares as of Thursday in north China's Shanxi Province, according to the Shanxi Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.
In neighbouring Shandong Province, the area dropped from 2.27 million hectares on Feb. 7 by more than half as of Thursday, according to the Shandong Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.
Hebei got its first heavy snow of the year on Wednesday. The provincial weather bureau said the snow was enhanced by artificial seeding.
"The snow has brought moisture to the soil, which may help end the drought," said Guo Yingchun, a senior engineer of the provincial meteorological observatory.
She said that 313 cigarette-size sticks of silver iodide were seeded into clouds from Wednesday night to 8 a.m. Thursday, a procedure that made the snow a lot heavier.
Vehicles queue up during a snowfall at a closed entrance to the national Jingshen Expressway near Qinhuangdao City, north China's Hebei Province, Feb. 18, 2009. Rain and snowfall have helped ease a severe drought in northern and eastern China. (Xinhua/Liu Guangyu)
Hebei forecasters said flurries would continue through Thursday night in the north of the province.
Meanwhile, the snow has affected thousands of travelers nationwide.
Taoxian International Airport, in Shenyang, capital of Liaoning Province, was closed from 11:50 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. Thursday, delaying a flight to Beijing.
Thirteen highways were completely or partly closed as of 1 p.m. Thursday, and all services were suspended at Shenyang's main bus terminal.
"I wonder when the highways would be open. I cannot miss the plane this afternoon," said Liu Jian, 28, who was booked on a 3 p.m. flight to Beijing. "If I can't make it, I will take the high-speed train."
Few passengers were stranded at the airport as the airport staff swept the runaway every 30 minutes. Most flights took off 30minutes late, said Dou Zhipeng, an airport publicity department official.
Urban traffic suffered no major disruptions, said city traffic police.
The Shenyang meteorological observatory forecast the heavy snow would continue to Friday, and sanitation workers stepped up snow clearing work.
All cross-provincial highways in Hebei Province, surrounding Beijing, were closed Thursday after heavy snow fell overnight.
At Jinan International Airport, in the capital of neighboring Shandong Province, three flights from Qingdao, Yantai and Beijing and five outbound flights were delayed Thursday morning. More than700 passengers were affected. Normal operations resumed at 11 a.m., said an airport official.
A total of 62 flights to Beijing and Tianjin were delayed by snow over Wednesday night at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport and Shanghai Pudong International Airport, affecting about 6,000 passengers affected, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
In Shanxi Province, in north China, major highways were closed. Source:Xinhua