Tokyo sees earliest snowfall in 54 years

Tokyo records first ever snowfall in November in 54 years.ST VIDEO: WALTER SIM
The rare November snowfall in Tokyo yesterday was caused by an eastward-moving cold front. At least 14 people were injured in falls on slippery roads and the city's train networks were hit by delays.
The rare November snowfall in Tokyo yesterday was caused by an eastward-moving cold front. At least 14 people were injured in falls on slippery roads and the city's train networks were hit by delays.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Tokyo has experienced snow in November for the first time since 1962, throwing its efficient train networks into disarray and leaving at least 14 people with minor injuries.

The unseasonal occurrence began at 6.15am (5.15am Singapore time) yesterday as the mercury plummeted to near zero due to a cold snap, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.

Such temperatures have rarely been seen in late autumn.

Ms Masako Nakamura, an administrative executive, said she had not been prepared for the snow and "had to scramble to look for gloves".

Although the 34-year-old usually cycles to work, she decided against doing so, given the slippery roads, and was thankful to have reached work on time.

High school student Taro Inoue, 16, said he was surprised by the snowfall. It was rare to see snow amid the coloured leaves of autumn in Tokyo, he said.

The first snowfall came 49 days earlier than it did last year, and 40 days earlier than in a typical year.

The JMA said the snow was due to a passing cold front moving eastwards near the Izu island chain, causing an air mass of minus 3 deg C that spread over Tokyo at an altitude of about 15,000m.

It was also the first time since record-keeping began in 1875 that snow had been observed accumulating on the ground in Tokyo in November. About 1cm of snow was observed in neighbourhoods such as Meguro.

At least 14 people were injured in falls due to the slippery roads, emergency responders said.

The snowfall had ceased by late afternoon, but not before miring Tokyo's numerous train networks in delays during the morning rush hour.

The cold also caused a surge in demand for electricity. The Tokyo Electric Power Company said electricity consumption as of 10am had reached more than 95 per cent of its supply capacity. The demand stabilised by noon.

The neighbouring city of Yokohama also saw snow.

Weather forecasts show that temperatures are set to stay below 12 deg C in Tokyo next week, but more snow is unlikely.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2016, with the headline 'Tokyo sees earliest snowfall in 54 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe