Forecasters warning of a blizzard on the way

Preparations are underway to deal with problems arising from heavy snow expected to hit the city from midnight on Wednesday.

A blizzard is on its way, forecasters are warning city residents.

Heavy snow, brought by a strong cold front from the north, is expected from midnight on Wednesday.

Up to 12 millimeters will fall from Wednesday night to Friday morning, with up to 5 centimeters of snow accumulated on roads, together with icy stretches, in western and northern parts of the city. Other parts will see medium snow and sleet, according to Shanghai Meteorological Bureau.

Wednesday is forecast to be overcast to sleet, with temperatures between 1 and 4 degrees Celsius. The low on Thursday and Friday will fall to around zero degrees downtown and minus 2 degrees in suburban areas, forecasters said.

Over the weekend, snow is set to be replaced by drizzle and sleet, with lowest temperatures around 2 and 3 degrees. 

Authorities don’t exclude the possibility of a red alert for snow storms. If the alert is on, schools should suspend classes and people working on construction sites and ports should stay home.

Shanghai's two airports have prepared snow blowers and tons of melting agents to prevent runways from being frozen.

Three maneuvers have been carried out at both Pudong and Hongqiao international airports to simulate frozen aircraft and runways as well as a mass of flight delays, the Shanghai Airport Authority said.

Several "snow removing points" have been established on aprons at both airports where airlines can pull aircraft to be defrosted.

"A wide range of flight delays and cancellations is likely to hit both airports during the snowy weather," the authority said. Additional rest areas have been set up for stranded passengers with volunteers and airport staff.

To avoid such circumstances, 11 snow blower vehicles have been standing by at both airports along with another four specialized vehicles to spray melting agents on runways, according to the authority. A total of 90 tons of melting agents and 30 tons of industrial salt have been prepared.

Exposed water pipes, valves and meters at the airports have been wrapped with heat-retaining materials. Air-conditioners have been inspected to ensure terminal buildings stay warm.

Airport restaurants and shops will extend their operating hours in case of flight delays and a large number of stranded passengers.

Shanghai Shentong Metro Group said snow was unlikely to accumulate on overground tracks. "But no one can predict the weather precisely," said Yin Wei, director of Metro's operation and management center. "We are mobilizing officers and workers to take precautions for a possible snow hazard." 

Yin said a more detailed plan will be sorted on Wednesday. Of most concern is the freezing of tracks caused by low temperature and rainfall. 

"Freezing may jeopardize the normal operation of the turnouts," said Yin.

A turnout allows trains to change between different tracks. If the track at the turnout is frozen, trains will be unable to turn around at their destinations.

Due to the blizzard, sales of high-speed train tickets departing from or passing through Shanghai to several major cities such as Beijing, Hangzhou, Nanjing and Hefei on Thursday will be halted. Shanghai Railway Administration said it will consider stopping some trains depending on the weather condition on Thursday.

Starting from Tuesday evening, all road maintenance companies overseen by the road administration bureau will be on standby 24 hours a day to cope with potential emergencies caused by heavy snow, the bureau said.

Over 700 special vehicles including snow plows, salt spreaders and tow trucks are ready to react to emergencies as well as straw bags, sand, snow-melting agents, industrial salt and other materials.

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