Shimla : Life came to a grinding halt as Shimla witnessed the season’s heaviest snowfall today. Almost all roads were blocked, transmission lines damaged and supply of newspapers and other essential commodities affected.
Covered under a white blanket of snow, the Queen of Hills fascinated tourists, who braved the extreme cold to enjoy the snow.
Snow-clearing operations were hit, with 879 roads, including five national highways, closed for traffic.
In Shimla, as many as 563 roads were closed; in Mandi, 174 and in Kangra, 137. Upper Shimla, Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti, Pangi, Bharmour and other high-altitude areas were cut off. Train services on the Kalka-Shimla narrow gauge track, however, remained unaffected.
Heavy snowfall uprooted trees at several places, including Cecil Hotel, Summerhill and Tunnel No. 103 in Shimla, blocking roads and damaging power transmission lines. Vehicular movement remained suspended beyond Shimla and a few vehicles were seen moving at a snail’s pace in the town.
All roads approaching Shimla, except the Kalka-Shimla national highway, were closed. Vehicles were not allowed beyond Tara Devi as roads had turned slippery.
“Road-clearing operations are in full swing, but heavy snowfall is hampering the work,” said Shimla DC Amit Kashyap. The bus service remained suspended in Shimla and vehicles coming from Chandigarh and Mandi were stranded near Tara Devi and Totu.
But the chaos in no way deterred tourists from thronging the Queen of Hills to enjoy the snow. They could be seen having a whale of a time on The Ridge and The Mall Road. “There is surge in tourist inflow after snowfall and the occupancy in hotels in Shimla, which had reached 80 per cent yesterday, is expected to increase,” said president, Shimla Hotel and Restaurant Association, Sanjay Sood.
“As the ISBT road is blocked, tourists are facing a great inconvenience. They are unable to reach their hotels. The road should be cleared immediately,” said president, Tourism Industry Stakeholders Association, MK Seth.Meanwhile, Kharapather received 60 cm of snow, followed by Shimla 47.2 cm, Dalhousie and Kufri 35 cm, Kalpa 31.6 cm and Manali 27 cm.
Widespread rain lashed the region and Solan was the wettest at 79 mm, followed by Ghumarwin 59 mm, Banjar 54 mm, Bhuntar and Nadaun 49 mm, Naina Devi 44 mm, Palampur 43 mm, Bilaspur 42 mm, Dharamsala 40 mm, Sujanpur Tira and Jogindernagar 37 mm, Rampur 36 mm, Kasauli, Baijnath 35 mm, Sundernagar, Karsog and Khadrala and Wangtoo 33 mm, Kotkhai 32 mm and Kahu, Nahan and Jubbar Hatti 31 mm.
Most areas in upper Shimla are covered under 40 to 70-cm snow. The MeT office has predicted more rainfall/snowfall at most places today and warned of heavy rainfall/snowfall at isolated places in Solan, Shimla, Sirmaur, Bilaspur and parts of Mandi, Kullu and Kinnaur districts.
The weather is likely to be dry on January 9 and 10 and more rain and snow are expected from January 11 as another Western Disturbance lies over the Himalayan region.