Mercury drops and winter arrives with a shiver

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Mercury drops and winter arrives with a shiver

Commuters faced a frosty trip to work Wednesday morning as mercury plunged to its lowest point so far this winter.

Seoul recorded a minimum temperature of minus 6.6 degrees Celsius (20.1 degrees Fahrenheit) at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, and temperatures in the capital settled at four degrees Celsius by noon, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA).

It felt colder, however, as brutal winds lashed central Korea and thick clouds covered its skies.

The sudden arrival of deep winter Wednesday was particularly jarring for the capital’s residents, since the day before temperatures were as high as 11.8 degrees Celsius.

In Cheorwon County, Gangwon, notorious for its deadly winters, the temperature registered as low as minus 10.9 degrees Celsius Wednesday morning, based on data from an automatic weather station in the area. Paju, Gyeonggi, reached minus 7.1 degrees Celsius, Incheon minus 3.5 degrees Celsius, Daejeon minus 2.7 degrees Celsius and Jeonju, North Jeolla, recorded minus 0.7 degrees Celsius Wednesday.

The KMA issued its first cold wave warnings of the year for Seoul and most of the country Tuesday evening. Cold wave warnings are issued when there is a temperature drop of over 10 degrees and it is minus 3 degrees Celsius or lower, or if temperatures below minus 12 degrees Celsius continue for over two days.

The chilling news is that this may be just the beginning of a spell of intense cold, as the KMA forecasts temperatures to drop to minus 10 degrees Celsius in Seoul on Saturday - numbers usually seen in January, Korea’s coldest month of the year.

Along the country’s western coast and its numerous islands, heavy snow is expected over the weekend, which could lead to slippery roads and damage to infrastructure. Armored in padded coats, face masks and winter hats, Seoul residents could be seen shivering as they shuffled through the streets on Wednesday. Such thick apparel made subway commutes stuffier than usual, with many complaining of a lack of space during rush hour.

“Fierce winds are blowing nationwide, so perceived temperatures will be lower than actual,” said a KMA spokesman. “People should prepare for even bigger drops in the coming days.”

Perhaps one silver lining to this icy weather is that the fine dust that blanketed the country last week has been swept away by continental arctic winds. Fine dust levels were classified as “good” to “average” across Korea on Wednesday.

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