Heavy snow causes congestion in Sapporo area, with bus services suspended due to delays in clearing snow

Roads covered with sherbet-like snow that has not been removed, causing gridlock. Yamanote in Nishi-ku, Sapporo at 2:50 p.m. on January 13

*This article was originally published in the Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper on January 13, 2022.

Transportation in the Sapporo area was badly affected on January, due to intermittent snowfall caused by the development of low atmospheric pressure. Snow piled on the roadside made the roads narrow and bumpy, causing traffic jams, mainly during commuting hours. Some bus services in Sapporo and its suburbs were suspended, and taxis also had to cope with bad road conditions.

 According to the Sapporo District Meteorological Observatory, the snowfall during the 24 hours up to 5 p.m. that day was 18 cm in Atsuta, Ishikari City; 11 cm in Koganeyu in Minami-ku, Sapporo; and 10 cm in the village of Shinshinotsu. The lowest temperatures recorded at all 10 observation points were in line with those of late March to mid-April, and the snow was wet and heavy, as it was on January 12, too.
On the same day, the narrow roads prevented buses passing on some sections of Hokkaido Chuo Bus routes. Bus services between Sapporo Station and the Kiyota area were suspended all day. Following delays of up to two hours on January 12, schedules were disrupted throughout the city and, according to one of the people in charge, “It’s not clear how long the delays will last.”

 Taxi drivers, who usually earn more during inclement weather, also struggled. “The road surfaces are abnormal this year. It’s bad for my back to drive on bumpy roads all day long,” lamented one private cab driver waiting for customers in front of JR Soen Station.

 JR services in Sapporo and its suburbs were suspended or delayed due to snow removal and other reasons, but the Chitose Line, which was closed all day on January 12, opened from the first train service on the 13th. Express train services to eastern Hokkaido also resumed on January 13, after being suspended all day on the 12th.

 According to a representative of the Kokusai Skiing Grounds in Jozankei, Minami-ku, Sapporo, “There weren’t many customers due to the road conditions.” The skiing grounds were closed on the 12th due to strong winds, but opened as usual on the 13th.