MURREE/RAWALPINDI: The number of tourists in Murree and its nearby areas has increased, corresponding with the snowfall in the hill resort.
Meteorological Assistant Mohiudeen Abbasi said that Murree received a foot and a half of snow, but around a foot settled on the ground. He explained that snow is measured as it falls, but can melt when the temperature is not low enough to keep it frozen. The nearby Galiyat areas received 2ft of snow.
The area is also struggling with the influx of tourists due to a lack of parking space. Thousands of vehicles have entered the city, but there is only parking for a few hundred of them.
The snow has brought with it more problems for rural residents of Murree and the Galiyat, whose link roads are not cleared for days and weeks after it snows. Water also freezes, and there are few heat sources for them to turn to.
Wajid Abbasi, who lives in Mussiyarri village, said the highway department only clears and salts main roads, but gives no attention to link roads that cater to more than 80pc of the population of Murree natives.
Clear weather expected in twin cities for two days, followed by fog
Sub-Divisional Officer Highway Asif Khattak did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Traffic wardens aboard special motorcycles that are supposed to move easily in the snow have been deployed in various areas to guide tourists.
Traffic police spokesperson Muzamil Hussain appealed to tourists to obey traffic rules for their safety and the safety of others, as the roads are very slippery during snowfall.
He said tourists should not park on the road to take photographs, as this can affect the rest of the traffic. They should also avoid parking on the road and double lines and overtaking other vehicles so that traffic may flow smoothly.
Mr Hussain said the traffic police provided help and support to 1,700 vehicles facing various issues in the snow in the last 36 hours, along with their routine duties.
He said vehicles should be in good working condition and people should avoid travelling at night.
“We have been visiting Murree for a long time to enjoy the snow. This year the arrangements are comparatively better; parking is always a chronic issue for tourists,” said Mehr Yaseen from Sargodha.
He said agents also take advantage of the lack of parking facilities to charge tourists high fees to park on the sides of the road.
Ayesha Naureen said that her family was apprehensive about visiting Murree after news on social media about mistreatment by hoteliers and hotel agents, but did not face any unpleasantness. She said the prices charged by hotels were high, while hotels did not offer parking facilities.
Many hotels have been constructed in Murree illegally without parking space that instead use roads for parking.
The Met Office has predicted more snowfall. Meteorologist Mohammad Ayaz told Dawn that a new system of rain and snow will enter Pakistan on Friday, and more snowfall is expected in the coming week.
Clear weather has been forecast for the next two days in Rawalpindi and Islamabad after two days of rainfall, with fog and a cold wave expected in the area once again.
The twin cities saw light rainfall on Tuesday that turned the weather even colder. The rain created a mess in downtown Rawalpindi and in Islamabad’s surrounding areas.
The Met Office recorded three millimetres of rain in Shamsabad, 10mm in Saidpur, 9mm at Zero Point, 7mm at the Islamabad International Airport and 5mm in Bokra and Golra.
The snowfall in Murree also caused cooler weather in adjoining parts of the Potohar region, including the twin cities. The temperature in Murree was -4°C and 4°C in Rawalpindi and Islamabad.“Rain is expected in the early hours of Wednesday while the weather will be clear the rest of the day. Clear weather will prevail in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad from Wednesday afternoon,” Meteorological Department spokesperson Rashid Bilal told Dawn.
He said a new weather system will likely prevail over upper parts of the country by the end of this week, but the situation will clear after two to three days. According to the pattern of previous years, the twin cities see three to four strong spells in January and more rain is expected in the coming days, he said.
Temperatures will drop in the twin cities to -1°C “due to heavy snow in Murree and northern parts of the country”, he said, adding: “The cold wave will come from northern parts and Siberian winds will also bring a chill to the air.”
Fog will begin from Thursday, he added. The Potohar region will experience fog conditions after it rains.
The past two days of rain were beneficial for farmers, who say the rain was good for seasonal vegetable and wheat crops in the arid agricultural area.
“The rain will increase the growth of crops, especially vegetables such as mustard and spinach. Light rain is better for crops in these days,” Raja Sultan, a farmer in Rawat, said.
Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2020