|Passengers enter the bus station in Ganyu county, Jiangsu province, on Wednesday. Si Wei / For China Daily|
Snowstorms and rain in many regions of the country have made the journey back to work even harder after the joyful family reunions of the Spring Festival holiday.
China's meteorological authority on Wednesday issued an alert for blizzards that will sweep through Shaanxi, Shanxi, Henan, Shandong, Anhui, Jiangsu and Hubei provinces from Wednesday afternoon to Thursday afternoon.
Snow in some regions could be as thick as 16 cm, leading to icy roads, the National Meteorological Center said.
Snowstorms could linger until Friday in some eastern and central regions, the center said.
The blizzards follow a cold front that has hit the regions and brought temperatures down by as much as 18 C.
All highways in four major cities in northern Hebei province and most highways in central Henan province have been closed as icy and slippery roads pose safety risks.
The week-long Spring Festival will end on Thursday, and tens of millions of people will return to work from their hometowns.
The first return travel rush peak is from Wednesday to Saturday, according to the Ministry of Transport. Figures from the ministry show that 71 million trips were made on Tuesday.
The ministry forecast that travelers will make 3.62 billion trips, including 3.2 billion by road, during this year's travel period from Jan 16 to Feb 24.
China's railway authorities added 702 trains on Wednesday to guarantee travelers would reach their destinations. Authorities estimated 7.8 million trips by train on Wednesday.
More than 121 million journeys by train have been made since the start of this year's travel rush, up 13.6 percent over last year.
Cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are the main destinations for return travel. Beijing railway authorities estimated 150,000 people would return to the capital on Thursday, the peak day of the rush.
Railway transportation was also affected by the snowstorms as trains have to limit their speed.
As most expressways in Shanxi and Hebei provinces have been closed since Wednesday, Yang Bohan and her husband had to change their plan and postpone their return to Beijing.
"My husband was supposed to return to work tomorrow, and he has to call for a day off," Yang said, adding that they planned to drive from Taiyuan to Beijing on Wednesday but the expressways were closed.
"The return rush has already put pressure on the expressway from Shanxi to Beijing. Usually during the rush, some entrances in Hebei province will be closed to reduce the traffic on the road. But now the snow adds tension and the highways are closed," she said, adding that no train or bus tickets are available until Sunday.
Ji Jin, a native of Changzhi, Shanxi province, could not return to Chongqing for work on Saturday due to the snowstorm.
"The snowstorm will last to Friday and my flight may be canceled on Saturday," he said, adding that the expressway from Changzhi to Taiyuan has been closed.
Zhang Hui, a native of Yancheng, Jiangsu province, worried about her trip to Shanghai on Friday.
"Although I leave on Friday, reports made me anxious about being trapped on the bus on the way to Shanghai," she said.
Huang Mu, a native of Chongqing who works in Shenzhen, worried about her flight to Shenzhen on Thursday because of heavy fog and rain in Chongqing.
"It is like a battle to buy tickets home every year during the Spring Festival holidays. Now the weather is also a concern," the 29-year-old complained, adding that her parents will go to Shenzhen for the reunion next year to avoid the traffic rush.
"It is important for the family reunion as I understand the meaning of the Spring Festival. If going home creates such big problems, why not make a change?" she added.