Japan weather officials warn of more heavy snow, traffic disruption

Weather officials forecast heavy snow will continue to fall in areas along the Sea of Japan coast in northern and eastern Japan. They are calling on people to stay on the alert for possible traffic disruptions.

The Meteorological Agency says a strong winter pressure pattern intensified through Wednesday morning, leading to an influx of the coldest air mass of the season over Japan. The frigid weather has brought heavy snowfalls, mainly to areas along the Sea of Japan coast from western to northern Japan.

Hiruzen in Okayama Prefecture's Maniwa City saw 88 centimeters of snow during the 24 hours through 11 a.m. on Wednesday. Daisen in Tottori Prefecture had 79 centimeters in the same period.

Snow has also accumulated at lower elevations where there is usually little snow. As of 11 a.m., snowfall had reached 10 centimeters in Kyoto City and 6 centimeters in Tsu City, Mie Prefecture.

Temperatures have dropped to almost the lowest in a decade across the country. The lows through Wednesday morning dropped to minus 12.8 degrees Celsius in Sapporo City, minus 7.5 degrees in Sendai City and minus 5.8 degrees in Niigata City.

The winter pressure pattern is expected to ease from the west, but localized heavy snow and blizzards remain likely through Thursday in northern Japan, the Hokuriku region, Niigata Prefecture and northern Kanto region.

Snowfall in the 24 hours to noon on Thursday is expected to reach 80 centimeters in the Tohoku region, 60 centimeters in Hokuriku, and 50 centimeters in Hokkaido.

Strong winds are expected to continue through Thursday in northern Japan and Hokuriku, which may cause rough seas.

Freezing temperatures are again forecast for Thursday morning in areas including western and eastern Japan.

Weather officials are warning people to be prepared for more heavy snow, blizzards, frozen roads and other disruption to transportation, including violent winds and high sea waves. They also say water pipes could freeze.

Officials are calling on drivers to stay updated with the latest weather and traffic information if they have no choice but to drive.

They are also warning of the danger in removing piled snow following a number of fatalities this season. Officials are urging people not to work alone.