Caution urged over heavy snow, strong winds

Weather officials in Japan are urging people in wide areas to be on the alert for heavy snowfalls and blizzards through New Year's Day.

The officials say a powerful incoming cold air mass will bring heavy snows, mainly along the Sea of Japan. They say the snow may accumulate very quickly in some areas, starting on Wednesday night.

The snow may accumulate even in the lowland areas of the Tokai, Kansai, Shikoku and Kyushu regions.

Up to 80 centimeters of snow is expected in the mountainous areas in Niigata Prefecture over the 24 hours through Thursday morning. Also the mountainous areas in the Kansai region may see up to 70 centimeters and the Hokuriku and Chugoku regions could get as much as 60 centimeters.

Weather officials say the snowfalls may continue through Saturday on the Sea of Japan coasts of northern and eastern Japan..

They are also warning of strong winds in some areas of eastern and western Japan.

They are calling for caution over possible disruptions of traffic. They say people must also be careful about frozen roads, snow sliding off roofs, power blackouts and avalanches.

Officials of the land ministry and the Meteorological Agency are calling on people to refrain from non-essential outings. They are also asking people to equip their cars with winter tires or snow chains if they need to drive.