Extremely heavy sea effect snow affecting Japan since December 14, 2022, claimed the lives of at least 17 people and left at least 90 people injured, as of December 26.
Heavy sea-effect snow and the coldest air mass of the season started affecting Japan on December 14, forcing the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) to issue blizzard warnings for parts of the country. JMA warned people to be on alert for violent winds, high waves, and disruptions to public transportation and traffic caused by blizzards and snowdrifts.
Over the next 10 days, many parts of the country experienced record-breaking snowfall rates and ground accumulations:
Tadami Town in Fukushima Prefecture had a record 1.1 m (43.3 inches) of snow in 24 hours to Monday morning, December 19. The town’s snow accumulation reached nearly 1.6 m (63 inches) as of 17:00 LT.
In 24 hours to 05:00 LT on December 24, 97 cm (38.2 inches) of snow fell in the town of Oguni in Yamagata Prefecture and 81 cm (31.9 inches) in the village of Sekikawa in Niigata Prefecture — record-breaking figures for each area.1
As of 09:00 LT, the accumulated snow had reached 187 cm (73.6 inches) in the Yamagata Prefecture village of Ohkura, 169 cm (66.5 inches) in the Hokkaido Prefecture village of Otoineppu, and 140 cm (55.1 inches) in the city of Aomori.
Hundreds of vehicles were stranded on highways, delaying delivery services and causing 11 deaths by Saturday, December 24.2
More snowfall over the Christmas weekend brought the number of dead to 17 and injured to 93 by Monday morning, December 26, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency. Many of them had fallen while removing snow from the roofs or were buried underneath thick piles of snow sliding off rooftops.
As of December 26, many parts of northeastern Japan reported three times their average snowfall for the season.
This extreme snow event comes on the heels of Japan’s warmest autumn (September – November) since records began in 1898.
1 Heavy snow forecast across Japan as record figures seen in Yamagata, Niigata prefs. – The Mainichi – December 24, 2022
2 Heavy snow in Japan leaves at least 17 dead and dozens injured – AP – December 26, 2022
Featured image credit: JMA/Himawari-9, RAMMB/CIRA, The Watchers. Acquired at 03:10 UTC on December 25, 2022
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