• Kyodo

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Heavy snow pummeled the Sea of Japan coastline and areas in the country’s north and west on Monday, stranding many vehicles and dumping record snowfall in some western Japanese cities due to a strong winter pressure pattern.

Hikone city in Shiga Prefecture saw 68 centimeters (26.7 inches) of snow, while in Hyogo Prefecture’s Asago city, 71 cm fell within 24 hours through early Monday — both the most ever recorded, according to the Meteorological Agency.

In the same period, Minakami in Gunma Prefecture had 70 cm, Aizuwakamatsu in Fukushima Prefecture had 55 cm, and the city of Aomori had 190 cm of snow. Cities like Nagoya, Kyoto and Hiroshima also observed snowfall.

One vehicle struck another from behind at around 6:30 a.m. on the Maizuru-Wakasa Expressway in Kyoto Prefecture, while a truck waiting for the accident to be cleared became stuck in snow, causing a traffic jam of around 20 vehicles.

The road operator, West Nippon Expressway Co., closed both inbound and outbound lanes of the expressway until snow was removed. The expressway didn’t fully reopen until past noon.

Heavy snow is causing traffic delays in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, on Monday. | KYODO
Heavy snow is causing traffic delays in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, on Monday. | KYODO

In Hikone, a large truck was immobilized just before dawn on a section of the National Route 8. The incident at one point caused a backup of traffic stretching for nearly 2 kilometers.

A 44-year-old man was stranded on his way to Hikone for work after encountering other stranded vehicles. “I have not moved for four hours.”

Local residents were seen in the morning clearing snow from the road on the Toyosato section of the highway.

One of them, a 47-year old man, said that around 60 cm had accumulated by morning. “It has been a while since I’ve seen this much snow,” he remarked.

Nagoya was hit by heavy snowfall on Monday. | KYODO
Nagoya was hit by heavy snowfall on Monday. | KYODO

A woman in her 50s who lives in Hikone said she could not move her car out of her garage because of snow piled up outside. “I removed the snow yesterday, but I gave up today. There’s just too much and I don’t feel like going out in my car,” she said.

Railway train services were also disrupted.

The heavy snow caused the Tokaido Shinkansen Line that runs between Tokyo and Osaka to operate at slower speeds. On the JR Tokaido Line, express trains were delayed for up to four hours on Monday morning.

West Japan Railway Co. also stopped operating some trains.

A number of flights to and from cities on the Sea of Japan coast and Hokkaido were canceled.

The weather agency warned that heavy snowfall as well as icy roads and high waves could continue through Tuesday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno urged residents in the affected areas not to go out as much as possible, saying further traffic disruptions may occur.

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