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Snow disrupts flights, damages cars in Seoul

Dec 19,2017
Trucks remove snow at Incheon International Airport after heavy snowfall on Monday morning. Over 100 flights were delayed or canceled due to weather conditions. [YONHAP]
Heavy Monday morning snowfall caused over a hundred flight delays and cancellations. Seoul, Gyeonggi and western Gangwon were hit with significant flurries.

By 11 a.m., 89 departures were delayed at Incheon International Airport, according to the Korea Airports Corporation (KAC). The airport saw over 5.4 centimeters (2.12 inches) of snow before noon.

At the same time at Gimpo International Airport, covered with 4.3 centimeters of snow, 58 domestic and international flights were either delayed or canceled. Most of the affected flights were bound for Jeju Island and Japanese cities.

Flights get delayed on snowy days because aircraft need to be de-iced before take-off so that snow and ice will not interfere with flying. Individual airlines decide to cancel flights when they expect prolonged delays, the KAC explained.

Arrivals and departures were not affected to the same extent in the afternoon, as the airports in Gimpo and Incheon labored to remove snow from runways through the morning.

Cars also had a hard time navigating icy roads. In Seoul, police restricted entry into four roads going over steep slopes, including Mounts Inwang and Bugak, for several hours as a safety precaution.

Though most of Seoul’s busiest intersections were cleared of snow, accidents and vehicle malfunctions abounded in the morning.

A 58-year-old man involved in snow-removal work in Namyangju, Gyeonggi, died after an excavator bucket hit his head.

In Gangnam, a Hyundai Equus heading toward Seolleung Station caused traffic chaos at 9 a.m. during rush hour when it caught fire from an unknown cause. No one was hurt.

By 10 a.m., 26,617 cases of car malfunctions were submitted to four of the largest insurance companies, according to the General Insurance Association of Korea. This was 32 percent higher than the average number reported on an average Monday before 10 a.m.

The weather forecast underestimated the expected amount of snow. At 6 a.m. Monday, the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) predicted 1 to 3 centimeters of snow across Seoul, Gyeonggi and western Gangwon.

When more snow fell by 9 a.m., the KMA hastily issued a heavy-snow warning in Seoul and parts of Gyeonggi. It also adjusted the expected snowfall amount to 2 to 7 centimeters for the day.

“Seoul received more snow than expected because of the thin and long snow cloud that stretched out horizontally,” explained Youn Ki-han, a communication officer from the KMA.

“When the cold air from the northwest passed over the Yellow Sea, snow clouds formed due to the difference between the temperatures of the atmosphere and the warm seawater.”

When the masses of cold and warm air collided, they produced a long strip of clouds, which then sprinkled snow over a very restricted region, including Seoul, as it moved east.

While Seoul was covered with 4.8 centimeters of snow by 10 a.m., only 2 centimeters fell in Suwon and Paju. For most provinces, the day went by without any snow.

BY HAM JONG-SUN, KANG CHAN-SU AND KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]