December Snow Cancels Flights To And From Lhasa Airport

Snow in December in Lhasa is an unusual occurrence. However, following an Early Warning from the Tibet Early Warning and Release Center in Lhasa, heavy snow fell across the Lhasa area of the region last Tuesday, with dire consequences for travelers to the region. Blizzard conditions were forecast for December 18 for the areas of Shannan to the south of Lhasa and the higher areas of Linzhi.

And right on schedule, snow started to fall heavily in the areas in the early morning of last Tuesday, December 18. And it was not just Shannan and Linzhi that were affected. At around 6:40am on Tuesday, the first snow of winter began to fall in Lhasa, the regional capital of Tibet Autonomous Region. Within an hour, the city saw at least 3 centimeters of snow, which continued through the day and the following night.

The Lhasa Gonggar International Airport, which lies in Gonggar County of Shannan Prefecture, was also hit hard, with several centimeters of snow falling within a few hours, grounding all aircraft due to the reduced visibility on all runways and landing fields. By 6:15pm, more than 45 flights out of the capital airport had been cancelled, leaving more than 3,000 passengers stranded at the airport until the snow stopped and runways could be cleared. Throughout Wednesday, flights were still grounded, and the remaining snow on the runways continued to disrupt flight schedules both into and out of the airport.

At around 3,570 meters above sea level, Lhasa Gonggar International Airport is one of the highest airports in the world, and provides flight services to Lhasa and the Tibet Autonomous Region from across China and Nepal. Lhasa airport is the only airport in Tibet with regular international flights, and carries thousands of passengers a day to the plateau region for both business and vacation visits.

While flights have now resumed at the high-altitude airport, snow still continues to disrupt services to and from the airport for ground traffic, with several accidents along the Airport Expressway leaving drivers and passengers stranded at the side of the road until assistance can get to them. Snow across the area has severely disrupted traffic into and out of Lhasa, especially to the south, with traffic moving at speed of just 20mph to be safe on the highway.

The snow has affected many parts of Lhasa, and on Wednesday, the steps of the Potala Palace were so slippery with ice and snow that the iconic palace was closed to visitors after the heavy snowfall battered the city for more than 24 hours. With more than ten centimeters of snow falling in the Tibetan capital over the 24-hour period, with temperatures dropping to as low as -9 degrees by Wednesday morning.

After the heavy snowfall, palace staff began clearing the snow from the steps and grounds to allow entrance once more, and the palace reopened on Thursday for business as usual. And by lunchtime on Wednesday, shopkeepers across the city were clearing the snow from in front of their stores and ready to open for business.

As one of the top destinations in China for tourists, the snowy scenes in Lhasa brought tourists out of their hotels in their thousands on Wednesday afternoon, taking photos of the snowy city against the stunning snow-capped mountains behind and getting the best winter selfies, even if they were in their wedding dress! Once again, Lhasa has become a winter wonderland in Tibet.
TAG: heavy snowfall in dencember potala palace closed due to snow snow cancels flights into and out of Lhasa airport early warning system warns of heavy blizzards


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