Cold spell grips Sea of Japan coasts in northern, eastern Japan

A strong cold air mass has caused snow to fall along the Sea of Japan coasts in northern and eastern Japan.

Temperatures have fallen below zero in most of Japan.

Japan's Meteorological Agency says a winter pressure pattern and cold air mass have brought heavy snowfall mainly along the Sea of Japan coasts in northern Japan and the Hokuriku region.

As of 5 a.m. Thursday, 41 centimeters of snow had accumulated in Mogami Town, Yamagata Prefecture, during the course of 24 hours. In the same period, a district in Ichinoseki City, Iwate Prefecture, had 36 centimeters and a district in Toyama City 24 centimeters.

Gusty winds prevailed in northern Japan.

During the three hours ending at 5 a.m., Rausu Town in Hokkaido observed a gust of over 130 kilometers an hour and Happo Town in Akita Prefecture one of over 100 kilometers an hour.

Also, the overnight low as of 5 a.m. in Nagano City was minus 11.6 degrees Celsius. It was minus 10.2 degrees in Sapporo City, minus 4 in Okayama City, minus 3.4 in Kumamoto City, minus 3.2 in Kyoto City, minus 2.9 in Kochi City, minus 2.4 in central Tokyo and minus 2.8 in Nagoya City.

Weather officials are warning that heavy snow and blizzards could cause more disruptions to public transport.

They also warn that subzero temperatures overnight could freeze water pipes and damage crops.

Heavy snow could present hazards even after it stops falling. There have been a number of fatalities this winter involving people clearing snow off rooftops.

Those removing snow are strongly advised to work in pairs.

Meanwhile, many vehicles remain stranded on the Shin-Meishin Expressway on the stretch linking Mie and Shiga prefectures due to heavy snow that began to fall on Tuesday.

Central Nippon Expressway Company earlier announced clearing work will be completed by early Thursday, but heavier-than-expected snow that followed hampered such efforts.

It's not known when the road will be fully reopened to traffic.