After freezing Tokyo transportation, storm heads north to Tohoku

Worst blizzard in 45 years claims 11; 1,200 hurt

Kyodo, Staff Report

Saturday’s blizzard, the worst to hit the Tokyo area in almost half a century, is being blamed for 11 deaths nationwide and more than 1,200 people being injured as accumulations continued to disrupt transportation on Sunday.

The heavy snow that blanketed eastern Japan halted most of the capital’s rail lines Saturday.

Trains and highway buses to and from Narita airport in Chiba Prefecture were halted from Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, forcing about 8,200 passengers to shelter overnight in the lobbies until Sunday morning. The airport distributed sleeping bags and snacks to them.

NHK reported that snow-related accidents nationwide left 11 people dead and over 1,200 injured Saturday and Sunday.

The heaviest snow in the capital in 45 years forced cancellations to continue into Sunday morning, including on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line as well as some flights at Haneda airport, according to their operators.

Snow up to 35 cm deep covered Sendai, the largest city in the Tohoku region, and Fukushima, which had gotten 44 cm by morning. Winds were clocked at up to 60.84 kph in Miyagi Prefecture, the Meteorological Agency said.

The snow had stopped falling in Tokyo by Sunday morning and was already starting to melt amid the relatively warm, sunny day.

Many Tokyoites, enjoying rare views of snow-covered neighborhoods, created snowmen and posted photos on Twitter and Facebook over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the snowy streets apparently discouraged many Tokyo voters from going to the polls, pushing down turnout for the gubernatorial election the same day.

Voter turnout was 20.52 percent as of noon Sunday, down 11.54 points from the same time in the previous election in December 2012.

For Sunday, the agency warned of heavy snow in Tohoku, very strong winds in Kanto and Tohoku regions centered on coastal areas, and stormy seas.

On Saturday, a record 31 cm of snow covered the city of Chiba, the deepest since data became available in 1966, while maximum depths elsewhere in the Kanto-Koshin region included 27 cm in central Tokyo and 49 cm in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture

  • Charlie Sommers

    I was living in Western Tokyo in 1969 when the previous record snowfall occurred. I was sustained through the ordeal by cups of warmed sake and a few snacks. I remember it with nostalgia.

    My heart goes out to those who have lost family members in the current storm.