Kashmir witnessed an early spell of snowfall this year on Saturday, forcing closure of all three major highways connecting the valley with rest of the country. Air traffic was also stopped.“Moderate to heavy snowfall of 1.5 feet was reported in Kashmir valley, with highest snow formation in upper reaches and passes like Zojila. It’s the fourth time in the past two decades that Kashmir witnessed snowfall in November,” said Sonam Lotus, who heads the meteorological department in Srinagar.The three main highways — Jammu-Srinagar, Poonch-Srinagar and Kargil-Srinagar — were closed, cutting off the valley from the rest of India. The Leh-Manali-Zanskar route was also closed due to the snowfall. Over 100 stranded passengers were rescued from the Mughal Road, connecting the Pir Panjal valley with Srinagar.Air traffic suspended Air traffic was also suspended after snow accumulated on the runway at the airport in capital Srinagar. Seven Srinagar-bound flights were cancelled.Authorities have set up emergency control rooms across the valley “to meet any eventuality”.Srinagar recorded a day temperature of 6.3° Celsius, a dip of 13° from normal, sparking a cold wave. “There will be gradual improvement in the weather from Sunday,” said Mr. Lotus.Snowfall also affected power supply in Srinagar. Chief Engineer of the Power Development Department Hashmat Qazi said the snowfall resulted in trees, with thick foliage, “coming down heavily on electrical lines, damaging most of the 33KV lines.”“A full-fledged restoration work is underway but continuous snowfall has made it very difficult to maintain the lines, resulting in decreased power supply to just 80 MW as against the normal 1150 MW,” he said.Snow brings cheerThere was a wave of cheer among hundreds of locals and domestic tourists, as all hotspot tourist destinations of Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg received heavy snowfall.Hundreds of locals uploaded live videos and pictures, as people greeted each other online on the season’s first snowfall. Kashmir has tradition to greet relatives and friends on the first snowfall.Apple crop damagedThe unusually early snowfall has damaged standing harvest of apple in north and south Kashmir. The snow uprooted the fruit-laden trees. Orchardists have appealed to the government to assess the damage in the Valley and “recommend compensation”.“The snow in the Valley looks beautiful as it heralds the arrival of winter but spare a thought for the horticulturalists. Part of the Apple crop is still on the trees, a large part is on the ground waiting sorting and packing and the trees still have leaves,” wrote National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah.
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