Snow storms hit northern, northeastern Japan

Rapidly developing low-pressure systems are bringing snowstorms to Japan's northern prefecture of Hokkaido and northeastern region of Tohoku.

The Japan Meteorological Agency says the wintry pressure patterns caused by the two low-pressure systems -- one in the Sea of Japan and the other near Hokkaido -- are bringing heavy snow in northern Japan, Hokuriku and the central region of Tokai.

Otoineppu Village in Hokkaido saw 31 centimeters of snowfall during the three hours to 11 a.m. on Wednesday.

Strong winds are blowing mainly in coastal areas. Gusts of nearly 130 kilometers per hour were recorded in Honbetsu Town, Hokkaido, during the three hours.

Weather officials are warning that blizzards in northern Japan could make driving difficult with nearly zero visibility.

Stormy conditions are causing flight cancellations. As of 11 a.m. on Wednesday, 95 Japan Airlines flights and 65 All Nippon Airways flights had been or would be canceled.

Maximum wind speeds could reach 90 kilometers per hour in Hokkaido and the Sea of Japan side of Tohoku toward Thursday, 83 kilometers per hour in Niigata Prefecture and 72 kilometers per hour in Hokuriku.

Seas will be extremely rough off the coasts of northern Japan and Hokuriku.

Even colder air will stream in over northern and eastern Japan on Thursday, brining heavy snow to a wide area toward Friday.

During a 24-hour period through Thursday morning, up to 70 centimeters of snow is forecast along the Sea of Japan side of Tohoku and up to 50 centimeters in Hokkaido and Niigata.

More snow is expected toward Friday morning over a wide swath of the Japanese archipelago.

Weather officials are advising people to be on the alert against stormy winds and high waves as well as traffic disruptions caused by blizzards and snow drifts.

People should also be vigilant against avalanches and power outages when snow accumulates quickly.

It is advisable to keep updated on the weather and refrain from going out unless absolutely necessary.