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Snow storm hits Japan

Jan. 1, 2011 at 11:47 PM   |   Comments

TOTTORI, Japan, Jan. 1 (UPI) -- A New Year's Eve snowstorm blanketed parts of Japan with up to 43 inches of snow whipped by winds up to 63 mph, officials said Saturday.

Up to 1,000 vehicles got backed up in the heavy snow along a 12 1/2-mile stretch of highway after a tanker truck crashed and blocked both lanes in Tottori prefecture, Kyodo News reported. Several hundred vehicles were still stuck as of 9:30 a.m. Saturday, the news agency said.

Meanwhile, an avalanche in the prefecture Friday killed four ski patrol members. Officials said the accident occurred at the Okudaisen ski resort on Mount Daisen.

Ski resort officials said the four went to inspect the area after one avalanche hit and may have been caught in a second one.

Prefectural government officials were arranging for the military's help in getting supplies such as blankets and fuel to those stranded in their cars.

Emergency centers were set up in Daisen and Kotoura for stranded motorists.

The heavy snowfall also forced 18 trains carrying about 1,200 passengers from completing their runs, Kyodo said.

Local meteorologists said 89 centimeters (35 inches) of snow had piled up in Yonago as of 5 a.m. Saturday, the most since measurements were started in 1940.

More than 100 centimeters (about 43 inches) had accumulated in parts of Aomori, Yamagata and Niigata prefectures with similar amounts expected in the Tohoku region.

Winds of more than 100 kph (63mph) were registered in parts of Kagoshima and Aomori prefectures. The winds also were expected to push waves near 20 feet high in western Japan and close to 30 feet in some parts of the north.

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