Three weeks into the national battle against snow havoc, meteorological chief Zheng Guoguang admitted on Monday that the constant snows and freezing rains were "beyond our expectations".
"We didn't expect the snowy weather would last so long. We didn't fully estimate another two heavy snowfalls would follow between Jan. 25 and Feb. 2 after severe blizzards hit the central and southern regions from Jan. 10 to Jan. 22," Zheng, chief of the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), said at a press conference.
"Snow and frost do occur in the south every year but only last for two or three days. But this year saw four continuous snowfalls, each lasted for four or five days, which is rare.
"What is worse, the blizzards fell during Chunyun, an annual rush when tens of millions struggle to reach home for the Lunar New Year," he said. The Spring Festival this year falls on Feb. 7.
"Because it was beyond our expectation we were not prepared," said Zheng, citing inadequate equipment for removing ice in the south.
"We did forecast every blizzard, but only with three or five days' warning. With the current technology, we cannot predict weather beyond a week.
"Thanks to the forecast of the other two snowfalls, the government made good arrangements to combat the snow," he said.
The chief said the government was working out an emergency mechanism for the south in case of such severe weather. But he declined to reveal the amount of money budgeted for the mechanism.
On Tuesday, light snow and sleet is forecast to fall on some parts of the country's northwest and in areas south down as far as the Yangtze River, according to CMA. Icy rain is forecast for some mountainous areas of Guizhou.
(Xinhua News Agency February 5, 2008)