Bringing cheer to tourists and hoteliers, Himachal Pradesh has received heaviest snow of the season, with many places covered with more than 90cm thick white blanket.
While snowfall will prove boon for tourism, it has crippled life in higher areas with blocked roads, snapped power cables and frozen water pipes.
The snowflakes measuring upto 4cm started falling in most places after 10pm on Thursday. Lower areas like Mandi and Sundarnagar too witnessed snowfall after three decades.
Tribal areas of the state have received up to 90cm of snow in 24 hours. While residents in lower areas were happy to see snowflakes, the snow has disturbed normal lives in higher areas of the state.
Bharmour recorded highest 90cm snow while Keylong in Lahaul received 55cm more snow. Snow accumulation at Keylong has reached over 100cm. Kothi and Solang in Manali received 65cm snow and it was 55cm in Kufri near Shimla.
Dalhousie received 50cm more snow. State capital Shimla recorded 36cm overnight snow. Manali town has received 35cm fresh snow. Kalpa (29cm), Theog (29), Janjehli (20cm), Mashobra (20cm) and Sarahan (17cm) also received more snow overnight.
Including national highways, state highways and local roads, over 700 roads in state are blocked with snow. Parts of Chamba, Kullu, Mandi, Shimla and Kinnaur districts have gone disconnected.
Snow has blocked roads in Shimla, Dalhousie and Manali where tourists are enjoying the fresh snow but many of them are in trouble as their vehicles have got stuck. Hundreds of vehicles are stranded in state. It may take two or three days for government to resume all the roads.
Hundreds of villages have plunged into darkness as snow has snapped power transmission cables. Supply to major towns including Manali has been restored but it will take time to erect the collapsed poles and lines in many areas.
According to officials, collapsing of trees and breaking of branches with weight of snow have been main reason of breaking of transmission cables.
In Kullu district, nearly 900 transformers were lying defunct on Friday morning. Nearly 500 transformers were made to work again by the evening.
Snow and landslides uprooted hundreds of trees in the state. In Manali, a huge deodar tree collapsed and damaged three cars. A tree near Hidimba Devi temple damaged a residential area. Another tree collapsed near Siyali Mahadev temple but there was no damage to property.
Hundreds of water schemes are not working after the snowfall. The water pipes were totally frozen on Friday morning. Residents were struggling to get the water. Many residents had to melt the snow to get water for household works and for their cattle.
Snowfall and rain have triggered many landslides. There were reports of landslides on Kullu-Manali national highway where shooting stones have made driving very risky.
All the departments are assessing damages caused by snowfall. Machines have been deployed to clear snow from the roads.
Kullu deputy commissioner Yunus said avalanche is another threat after heavy snowfall. “We have requested people not to go to avalanche prone areas. Machines have been deployed to clear snow from the roads.”
He added that some roads are open for 4X4 vehicles; others would also open for all vehicles shortly. “As weather is predicted to remain inclement in next few days, we have sounded an alert in Kullu district till February 14.”
Cold waves in Himachal
A fresh cold wave has gripped the state post snowfall. The minimum temperature of the state has plunged 2 to 3 degrees below the normal but maximum day temperature is 7 to 8 degrees below the normal temperature during this time of the state.
At minus 13.8 degrees C, Keylong was coldest in Himachal, followed by Kalpa (-7), Kufri (-6.1), Manali (-5), Dalhousie (-4.3), Shimla (-2.4) and Dharamshala (0.4).
More snowfall predicted
Shimla med office has predicted generally dry weather on Saturday. Another western disturbance will affect Western Himalayas from Sunday onward, bringing more rain and snow to Himachal, the weather advisory said.
Two avalanches bury nine in Himachal
Following avalanche warning in Himachal, Lahaul valley is hit by many avalanches in last 48 hours. One such avalanche at Gondhla village of Lahaul hit mahila mandal bhawan and trapped four Nepalese including two children inside the building.
The late night rescue operation with help of villagers succeeded in evacuating all the victims.
“All four are safe. Avalanche has damaged the building and two vehicles. The victims were labourers,” Lahaul-Spiti deputy commissioner Ashwani Kumar Chawdhary said.
He added that there is strong possibility of more avalanches in the valley. “Entire Lahaul is covered with thick layer of snow. Residents have been advised to avoid unnecessary movements and stay at villages until things turns favourable.”
Another avalanche in Spiti valley buried five labourers.
Spiti additional deputy commissioner Vikram Negi said the labourers were clearing snow from Kaza-Sagnam road with help of a dozer when avalanche struck the area.
“Five persons were reported to be buried under the debris. Thankfully all were searched and pulled out. One of them who has sustained some injuries is admitted to local hospital. We have advised people to stay indoors for at least two more days,” he added.