Late-season snowfall snarls traffic

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Late-season snowfall snarls traffic

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Passengers take care not to step in the slush as they get off a bus yesterday morning near Gwanghwamun, central Seoul. Heavy snowfall covered the capital and other regions overnight. [YONHAP]


Belated winter snow spread across the nation and into Seoul yesterday and Tuesday, causing traffic congestion, canceled flights and inconvenience for residents all across the country.

Yesterday morning’s snow in Seoul, piling up to around 13.5 centimeters (5.3 inches), is the heaviest the city has seen during March in six years, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration.

On March 17, 2004, Seoul saw 18.5 centimeters of snow.

The Yeongdong region of eastern Gangwon has been hit the hardest, seeing snow almost daily this month. As of 8 a.m. yesterday in Daegwall-yeong, Gangwon, the snow piling up over residual snow and ice from previous days had reached 108 centimeters.

The KMA said the belated snowstorm was caused by an imbalance between air temperatures in the upper and lower atmospheres.

“Over the Korean Peninsula, the cold air in the upper atmosphere and the warm air in the lower atmosphere collided, creating snow clouds,” said Kim Seung-bae, a forecaster for the KMA. The administration said that the recent spring-like air collided with currents of 30 to 40 degrees below zero Celsius (22 to 40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit) from the Siberian region, which spread through the upper atmosphere within five kilometers (3.1 miles) of the ground.

The late-night snow affected flights at Gimpo and Incheon airports yesterday. According to the Korea Airports Corporation, as of yesterday morning 15 domestic flights from Gimpo going to cities including Busan, Ulsan and Jeju, were canceled. Seventeen flights which were scheduled to land at Gimpo from other airports across the country were also canceled.

The corporation added that two flights from Incheon International Airport, including an Asiana flight and a United Airlines flight to Busan, were canceled yesterday morning.

The regions hit hardest by the weather were small towns across the nation, including Wangsan, Gangwon. Lee Sun-hwa, 54, who runs a bed and breakfast in the area, said, “I haven’t been outside for almost a month because of the snow and I feel like I might get depressed if this keeps up.” This winter, Lee saw only two customers at her establishment, but had to tell them both to leave because of the heavy snow.

Yesterday’s heavy snow closed 145 schools across all levels in North Gyeongsang, according to the province’s education office. In the southern part of North Chungcheong, 12 centimeters of snow fell, blocking bus routes in certain areas including in Hoenam and Sanoe.

“Unlike national and regional highways, smaller roads which do not have a lot of traffic are more slippery and dangerous,” said an official at Sinheungunsu, a bus company which operates vehicles in the nation’s agricultural regions.

Better weather is in sight. The KMA forecast that beginning this afternoon, temperatures around the country will rise slowly and recover to normal conditions for March by tomorrow. However, it added that the metropolitan region, including Seoul and Yeongdong, will see either rain or snow tomorrow.


By Cho Jae-eun, Lee Chan-ho [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]
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장기 폭설에 갇힌 강릉 왕산면


“여기까지 웬일이야. 이달 들어 외지 사람은 처음 보네.”


10일 오후 강릉시 왕산면 대기리에서 눈에 파묻혀 가지 못하는 승용차를 마을 주민이 트랙터를 이용해 끌어내고 있다. 왕산면에는 무릎 높이의 눈이 쌓여 있다. [이찬호 기자]


10일 낮 12시20분쯤 강원도 강릉시 왕산면 대기2리 속칭 늑막골. 무릎까지 빠지는 눈을 헤치고 마을에서 400여m 떨어진 외딴 집을 찾아가자 눈을 치우던 정연설(77)씨가 반갑게 맞이한다. 정씨는 8일 눈발이 약할 때 강릉 시내에서 법무사를 하는 아들이 다녀갔을 뿐 인적이 끊긴 가운데 눈에 갇혀 지내고 있다. 경로당에도 다니지 못하고 있다.

“집에 있어야만 하는데 안테나에 눈이 많이 쌓여 텔레비전도 나오지 않아 심심해.” 위성안테나의 눈을 치우자 텔레비전이 선명하게 나왔다.

정씨는 심야전기로 난방하고 양식이 준비되어 있어 바깥 나들이를 못할 뿐 특별히 불편한 것은 없다. “투표를 못한 것은 평생 처음이야.” 정씨는 왕산면사무소에서 진행된 강릉농협 조합장 선거에 투표하고 싶었으나 눈을 헤치고 나갈 수 없어 투표를 결국 포기했다. 정씨의 부인 오방현(76)씨는 “다리가 아파 일주일에 한 번씩 강릉시내 병원에서 물리치료를 받는데 3월 들어서는 가지 못해 다리가 아프다”며 “그래도 이웃 주민이 눈을 치워줘 특별히 어려움은 없다”고 말했다.

평소 정씨 집으로 올라오는 길의 눈을 치워주는 이웃은 박영철(58)씨. 이곳에서 3만9600㎡ 규모의 농사를 짓는 그는 트랙터를 이용해 자신의 마당을 비롯해 마을 길 제설작업을 한다. 폭설이 내리면 대기리를 비롯해 고단리·왕산리 등 왕산면의 여러 마을을 잇는 노선버스가 단축 운행하지만 오래 산 주민은 ‘그러려니’ 하며 지낸다. 20~30년 전에도 처마 밑까지 눈이 쌓이는 경우가 많았다고 한다.
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