SAPPORO -- Blizzards are expected to hit mainly the Sea of Japan side of Hokkaido through Nov. 16 as a cold front brings severe wintry weather to the country's northernmost prefecture.
The Sapporo Regional Headquarters of the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) is calling for people to be on their guard against whiteouts and possible traffic disruptions due to snowdrifts. High waves are also expected.
According to the regional meteorological observatory, a cold air mass with temperatures of minus 15 degrees Celsius or lower passed over Hokkaido at an altitude of some 1,500 meters, pushing down the mercury across the island prefecture to midwinter levels.
Snowfall is expected to intensify on the Sea of Japan side of Hokkaido through Nov. 16, and the observatory is urging people to take caution against possible power outages caused by wet snow sticking to electrical wires, and to prepare for potential damage to agricultural facilities.
During the 24-hour period from 6 p.m. on Nov. 15, up to 50 to 70 centimeters of snowfall is expected to strike the Sea of Japan side of the prefecture. Maximum wind gust speeds of 35 meters per second are forecast for land and sea areas on the Sea of Japan side and the Pacific Ocean side of the prefecture, as well as for the Sea of Okhotsk.
The observatory warned that turbulent seas will continue through Nov. 16, with waves of up to 7 meters predicted for the Sea of Japan coast. Waves are expected to reach 6 meters on the Pacific coast and 5 meters on the Sea of Okhotsk coast.
According to the Hokkaido Prefectural Government, a total of 36 elementary and junior high schools and other educational institutions were temporarily closed on Nov. 14 mainly in the city of Muroran and other areas.
(Japanese original by Kunihiko Misawa, Hokkaido News Department)