950 JR train services suspended and vehicles left stranded in blizzard

A taxi stranded in a snow drift. 7:15 a.m. on February 22, Chuo-ku, Sapporo

*This article was originally published on the Hokkaido Shimbun Press website in Japanese, on February 22, 2022.  

Hokkaido was hit by a snowstorm on February 22, caused by a low-pressure system that had developed. As of 8:30 a.m., JR Hokkaido had decided to suspend 950 train services, including 113 limited express services and 130 Rapid Airport services. As of 9 a.m., 97 flights in and out of New Chitose Airport had also been cancelled. Vehicles became stranded due to snow drifts in various regions, and some bus services were also suspended. The Sapporo Regional Meteorological Observatory warned of disruption to transportation caused by blizzards and snow drifts in Hokkaido on the 23rd, too.

Up to 50 centimeters of snow was expected to fall in the southern part of the Sea of Japan side and the western part of the Pacific side of Hokkaido in the 24 hours up to 6 a.m. on the 23rd.
According to JR, as of 9:30 a.m. on the 22nd, all train services in and out of Sapporo Station were suspended. As of 9:00 a.m. on the same day, nine sections of eight expressway routes, including the Tomakomai-chuo Interchange between Sapporo and Tomakomai on the Hokkaido Expressway, as well as 19 sections of 15 national highway routes, and 95 sections of 87 prefectural highway routes, were closed.

As of 8:30 a.m. on the 22nd, a total of 270 kindergartens, elementary, junior high, high, and special-needs schools (apart from those in Sapporo) were temporarily closed due to blizzards.
Following a multiple collision involving approximately 80 vehicles on the Hakodate-Esashi Expressway in Hagino in the city of Hokuto on February 21, officers from the Hakodate Central Police Station were involved in the removal of around 70 vehicles that remained at the scene, on the morning of the 22nd.