Heavy snow in northwest Japan leaves drivers stranded overnight
NIIGATA – Heavy snow in coastal cities from Monday through Tuesday in northwest Japan has stranded hundreds of vehicles overnight on highways while disrupting local train services and causing electrical outages.
With drivers stuck in the deep snow on two national highways, Niigata Prefecture requested a disaster-relief dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces to help resolve the traffic congestion in Kashiwazaki and other cities.
Japan’s transport minister said the government aims to resolve the congestion on the highway in Kashiwazaki, but local authorities said there is currently no prospect of improving the situation on the other sections, with traffic jams also occurring on the highway serving Nagaoka and Ojiya.
At least 800 cars and trucks were stuck in Kashiwazaki around 1 a.m. Tuesday. The number was reduced to around 300 vehicles three hours later as work to remove snow continued throughout the night, according to the authorities.
The Japan Meteorological Agency on Tuesday warned of another snowstorm and potential traffic disruptions in the Sea of Japan coastal regions from Thursday to Sunday as a cold spell grips the Japanese archipelago.
Kumi Miyazawa, a 52-year-old elementary school teacher, said she spent a sleepless night stuck in a traffic jam that began Monday afternoon. Despite being there for more than 15 hours, her car had only moved 50 meters by Tuesday morning.
Drivers helped each other, she said, with some trying to shovel out a car that had gotten stuck in the snow. A nearby company office distributed drinks and let people use its bathroom, she said.
“I don’t know if I can get through this even if I keep waiting (for the road to open),” she said.
The heavy snow also caused electrical outages in many areas and disrupted train services.
East Japan Railway Co said it had suspended many local services from the first trains of the day.
In a 24-hour period through Monday morning, three municipalities in Yamagata and Fukushima prefectures in the country’s northeast registered over 1 meter of snow accumulation, the highest ever seen in the locations.
In Uonuma in Niigata Prefecture, 87 centimeters of snowfall was observed in a 24-hour period through Tuesday morning, while 76 cm of snow was seen in Nagaoka and 72 cm in Kashiwazaki.