Spring Festival travel rush to face extreme winter storms, with experts warning possible traffic congestion

By Fan Wei and Du Qiongfang (Global Times) 08:17, January 30, 2024

An aerial drone photo taken on Jan. 22, 2024 shows vehicles running on the road in Changsha, central China's Hunan Province. Changsha saw its first snowfall of 2024 from Sunday night to Monday morning(Photo: Xinhua)

An aerial drone photo taken on Jan. 22, 2024 shows vehicles running on the road in Changsha, central China's Hunan Province. Changsha saw its first snowfall of 2024 from Sunday night to Monday morning (Photo: Xinhua)

Freezing storms with the longest duration and the largest scope since this winter have been forecasted by China's meteorological authority during the approaching peak of China's Spring Festival travel rush, with meteorological experts warning that the storms will have a huge impact on road transportation.

China's National Meteorological Center (NMC) forecasted on Sunday the continuing freezing stormy weather in the central and eastern parts of China between January 31 and February 5, ahead of this year's Spring Festival, which is also the Chinese New Year, with over 15 provinces to be affected by the blizzards, heavy snowfall, freezing rain and thunder and lightning.

Meteorological experts said that this round of rainy and snowy weather will coincide with the peak of the Spring Festival travel rush, and the rain, snow and freezing weather will have a significant impact on roads, railways, aviation and other transportation, suggesting that preparations should be made in advance for emergencies, and traffic safety, urban operations and other management work should be strengthened.

In addition, inspections on the power and communication facilities should be conducted regularly in affected localities including the southern part of Central China's Henan Province and the northern part of East China's Anhui Province.

The southern parts of the Yangtze River and regions in South China should take precautions against the persistent rainfall and severe rainstorms.

Also, since the forecast for this weather event has a long duration, the meteorological authority suggested that the public pay close attention to the latest weather forecasts released by meteorological authorities and adjust travel plans accordingly.

The widespread extreme rainy and snowy weather during this Spring Festival travel rush has also sparked discussions about whether a freezing disaster similar to the one in the southern part of China in 2008 would occur.

An extremely rare and severe weather event characterized by prolonged, widespread low temperatures, rain, snow and freezing weather in 2008 caused over 5.8 million passengers to be stuck at railway stations across the country.

According to the NMC, in some parts of the central and eastern areas, the rainy and snowy weather will be extreme, but the duration, the intensity of low temperatures, will not be comparable to the winter storms of early 2008.

Chief weather forecaster Sun Jun from the NMC told the Global Times on Monday that compared with the low-temperature, rain, snow, and freezing weather process in early 2008 which was rarely seen historically, this winter's rainy and snowy process will occur in different areas. This year it will affect areas prone to northerly winds but see shorter durations, and temperatures will not be as low as in 2008.

According to Wang Lijuan, expert from the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) Public Meteorological Service Centre, the rainy and snowy weather is expected to have significant impact on expressway and railway transportations, which may cause train delays and passengers to be stranded at train stations.

Due to the large population movement during the Spring Festival travel rush, the expert suggested the public to stay vigilant. Due to the adverse effects of snow, freezing and slippery road conditions, drivers must maintain a low speed and drive safely.

Sun further noted that it is expected that in Henan, Hubei, Anhui, Jiangsu, Shandong, Hunan and Guizhou, among other provinces, will suffer from freezing rain. Apart from having a significant impact on transportation, it could also have a considerable impact on power transmission lines.

Snowstorms and rainfalls in the southern part are prone to trigger landslides and other geological disasters in some areas, while the significant snowfall in the northern part is likely to impact the agricultural and livestock husbandry facilities. Reinforcement and patrol measures should be taken to prevent disasters such as collapses caused by snow accumulation, Sun said.

Sun predicted that this round of weather events will have a larger range of impact than the last rainy and snowy weather process and is expected to exceed the snowfall amount and coverage during December 13 and 15 in 2023, with the snowfall in the southern part of Hebei Province and Henan and Shandong provinces reaching extreme levels.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)


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