SRINAGAR: 'Chillai-Kalan', the 40-day harshest period of winter in Kashmir, came to an end on Thursday but intermittent snowfall and low visibility have cut off the valley from rest of the country as Srinagar-Jammu Highway remained closed while no flight has been able to land here so far, officials said.
"The Srinagar-Jammu National Highway has been closed for traffic due to the accumulation of snow around Jawahar Tunnel in Qazigund area and landslides at Anokhi fall in Ramban district," an official of the Traffic Department told PTI here.
While traffic was allowed for a couple of days on the arterial road earlier this week, frequent landslides and snowfall around the tunnel area has forced closure of the highway for most of the past two weeks. The closure of the road has resulted in shortage of essentials like cooking gas and eatables including vegetables and mutton, local residents claimed.
The prices of vegetables and other eatables have risen sharply over the past few days, Farooq Ahmad Bhat, a resident of Sarai Bala, said.
Officials of the divisional administration maintain that some trucks, which were stranded along the highway, have been able to reach here over the past two days. "The supplies have reached, we have enough stocks of essentials. There is no need to panic," a senior official said.
However, the snowfall, coupled with poor visibility has forced cancellation of nine flights scheduled for Thursday so far. "No aircraft has arrived at Srinagar airport since this morning. Nine flights have been cancelled so far. If the weather does not improve, rest of the flights will also be cancelled," an official of the Airport Authority of India said.
Srinagar has witnessed the cold wave breaking a nearly three-decade-old record as mercury plunged to minus 7.8 degrees Celsius on 27 December 2018. It recorded a low of minus 8.8 degrees Celsius in 1990, which still is a record low in past 30 years.
Gulmarg and Pahalgam, the two famous tourist resorts in the valley, saw the mercury sliding up to 15 degrees Celsius below the freezing point during Chillai-Kalan.
In Ladakh division, there was not much change in night temperatures across the valley compared to the previous night. The weatherman has forecast more rain or snowfall in the valley over the next few days, with chances of precipitation lesser on Saturday and Sunday.
According to MET department officials, 'Chillai-Kalan' which ended on Thursday was harshest in more than a decade and the cold wave is expected to continue in Kashmir as the valley has entered the 20-day period Chillai-Khurd (small cold) which will be followed by 10-day long Chillai-Bachha (baby cold).