Record snowfalls hit western Japan, disrupt transportation systems

A powerful cold air mass has brought heavy snow on the Sea of Japan coast from the country’s north to west, with some cities in northern parts of western Japan’s Kansai region logging records snowfalls and transportation systems disrupted, local media reported Monday.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, 68 centimeters of snow fell in Hikone city, Shiga Prefecture, and 71 centimeters accumulated in Asago City, Hyogo Prefecture in a 24-hour period through early Monday, both hitting record highs.

Due to the heavy snow, a car accident caused a traffic jam of about 20 vehicles at around 6:30 a.m. local time on the Maizuru-Wakasa Expressway in Kyoto Prefecture, western Japan.

The road operator, West Nippon Expressway Co., closed both outbound and inbound lanes of the expressway until the snow was removed. The expressway was fully reopened past noon.

In addition, a large truck got stuck just before dawn on a section of the National Route 8 in Hikone city. The incident at one point caused a backup of traffic stretching for about 2 km.

The heavy snow caused the Tokaido Shinkansen Line that runs between Tokyo and Osaka to operate at slower speeds.

The weather agency warned that heavy snowfall could continue through Tuesday, and strong winds, as well as icy roads, should draw cautions.

People in the Hokuriku and Tohoku regions are advised to remain alert as the snow clouds are expected to gradually move east.

In the 24 hours through Tuesday morning, up to 90 centimeters of snow is expected in Niigata Prefecture and 80 centimeters in the Kansai region and Gifu Prefecture.

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