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Beijing braces for winter's first snow
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The first snow of the winter hits Beijing in the morning on Dec. 10, 2007.

Beijing was blanketed by its first snowfall of this winter season early on Monday morning, playing havoc with traffic and causing a surge in passengers along the city's subway system.

Visibility on roads decreased to less than 500 meters in some urban areas, causing traffic jams on more than 100 streets as of 9 a.m. Vehicles were running very slowly on another 80 roads.

The combination of heavy fog and traffic accidents brought traffic to a standstill for many vehicles coming to the capital from Chengde, Hebei Province, on a key expressway.

The snow started to fall at 4:30 a.m., covering most of the city. The average precipitation was one mm, with a maximum two mm registered in the southern suburbs as of 8 a.m., said Guo Hu, Beijing Meteorological Bureau chief.

Beijing usually receives its first snow in late November. Monday's snowfall came a little late but was still in the normal period, Guo said.

More than 1,890 workers and 450 vehicles from the city's public sanitation departments were mobilized to clean up streets, using more than 745 tons of chemical powder and 1,832 tons of liquids to melt the snow.

The amount of melting agents was restricted in an effort to reduce side effects to the roads and traffic, according to sanitation officials.

More than 300 workers and 230 vehicles were involved in the snow removal on Chang'an Avenue and the Second and Third Ring roads in the downtown area.

The city's public transport company dispatched 100 teams to keep routes clean and safe. Some 300 buses were on standby to meet the possibility of higher transport demand.

Beijing's subway system received greater passengers in the morning rush hour, forcing the Metro administration to send out more workers to maintain order.

The latest forecast said the snow will stop at noon and the fog was expected to dissipate tonight or early next morning.

(Xinhua News Agency, December 10, 2007)

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