Srinagar- The cold wave sweeping Kashmir intensified on Thursday as the mercury fell several notches to settle well below the freezing point across the valley, officials said here.
Srinagar city -- the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir -- recorded a low of minus 5.9 degrees Celsius, which was over three degrees below the previous night's minus 2.2 degrees Celsius.
Gulmarg tourist destination in north Kashmir recorded 10.4 degrees Celsius as against the previous night's low of minus 11 degrees Celsius, the officials said.
They said Gulmarg was the coldest recorded place in the valley. Pahalgam, which serves as the base camp for annual Amarnath yatra in south Kashmir, recorded a low of minus 9.6 degrees Celsius.
Qazigund the gateway town to the valley recorded the minimum of minus 6.2 degrees Celsius, while Kupwara, in the north, registered a low of minus 5.8 degrees Celsius and Kokernag, in the south, minus 7.8 degrees Celsius, the officials said.
Kashmir is currently under the grip of 'Chillai-Kalan' -- the 40-day harshest winter period when a cold wave grips the region and the temperature drops considerably leading to the freezing of water bodies including the famous Dal Lake here as well as the water supply lines in several parts of the valley.
The chances of snowfall are most frequent and maximum during this period and most areas, especially in the higher reaches, receive heavy snowfall, the officials said.
While 'Chillai-Kalan', which began on December 21, will end on January 31, the cold wave continues even after that in Kashmir with a 20-day-long 'Chillai-Khurd' (small cold) and a 10-day-long 'Chillai-Bachha' (baby cold).
Leh Highway Closed For Winter
Meanwhile the 434-km strategic Srinagar-Leh highway, connecting Ladakh region with Kashmir, has been officially closed from Friday for winter months to avoid any accident following slippery road conditions due to the freezing temperature.
“We have closed the highway from today as per orders by the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir,” police sources said Thursday.
They said the road has become very slippery particularly at Zojila, Meenmarg, Zero-Point, India Gate and other places, where mercury remains below minus during the night and sub zero during the day. The mercury would witness further drop during the coming winter days.
The Srinagar-Leh highway has been closed for winter months, DSP Traffic Rural Ganderbal, Faheem Ali told news agency KNT.
Divisional Commissioner P.K. Pole also confirmed closure of the strategic highway for winters following slippery road conditions.
”We have withdrawn all our personnel deployed on the highway between Sonamarg and Drass, on the other side of the Zojila pass to regulate traffic,” he said.
Pertinently, Beacon on the intervening night of December 31, rescued 300 passengers and 106 vehicles, stuck at Zojila Pass due to the slippery road conditions.
The official said that traffic police and local administration on both sides of the Zojila had made all efforts to clear vehicles to their respective destinations before its closure. The strategic highway remains closed from about four to five months every year.
Meanwhile, the meteorological department has predicted moderate to heavy snowfall from Monday.
Authorities across the Kashmir valley have geared up all resources to meet any challenge following the prediction of moderate to heavy rain and snow in Kashmir.
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