Sunday, March 3, 2013

Record accumulated snowfall buries northern Japan

Asahi Shimbun: Communities in Hokkaido and five prefectures of the Tohoku region had record levels of accumulated snow as of Feb. 25, although precipitation levels are about the same as an average year. In the Sukayu district of Aomori city along the Hakkoda mountain range, the snowpile measured 5.61 meters, a record for all areas where the Japan Meteorological Agency keeps records of accumulated snowfall. Thirteen locations have set records for their snowpiles this winter.

Low temperatures in the region are a major reason for the deep snowpiles and some municipalities are facing problems from the accumulated snow. Located at an altitude of 890 meters, Sukayu is known for its hot springs. Some tourists came to the area after seeing news reports about the huge snowpiles.

An inn in the area has increased the number of times a day it shovels snow from three to five. Bulldozers are in operation from 4 a.m. until 9 p.m. clearing snow from the roads and parking lots. Despite these efforts, overnight snowfall leaves a knee-high snowpile by most mornings.

In Aomori city, where population density is greater, the snowpile in a central part of the city measured 1.42 meters, the deepest it has been this winter. The 40 or so locations, such as vacant lots, where snow is dumped are full. The city had set aside about 985 million yen ($10.5 million) in its budget to clear snow from major roads, but so far 1.36 billion yen has been spent, forcing the municipal government to submit a supplementary budget asking for an additional 600 million yen.

Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, also had a record snowpile of 1.53 meters. Because so many residents have dumped snow in a local river, there is now the danger of flooding because the river has been dammed by the snow....

A snow blower train in 2010, property of the Hokkaido Railway. Public domain

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