A Rare Heavy Snowfall Hits Tokyo, Stalls Travel

February 9, 2014

People hold umbrellas as they walk on the street covered with snow in Tokyo on February 8, 2014. Heavy snow struck Tokyo and other areas across Japan, grounding flights and suspending some train services (Toru Yamaka/AFP/Getty Images)

Heavy snow disrupted flights and train services across Japan Saturday, as the weather agency issued a severe storm warning for Tokyo.

NHK reported 27 centimeters (just under 11 inches) of snow blanketed central Tokyo by late Saturday night, local time. The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) issued its first heavy snowfall warning for central Tokyo in 13 years. 

"Tokyo only averages 4.3 inches of snow each year. The last time they picked up an eight-inch-plus snowstorm was Feb. 12, 1994," said meteorologist Nick Wiltgen.

(MORE: 6 Snowiest Cities in America)

The JMA warned that snow and rain would continue through the night, but that skies would clear gradually Sunday.

Several universities in Tokyo delayed the start of entrance exams because of delays in metropolitan trains and subways, known for almost always being on time.

Major carriers Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways suspended domestic flights from Tokyo's Haneda airport. Some bullet trains were delayed and parts of expressways were closed.

Local media stated that at least five people have been killed and 600 injured in snow-related accidents, according to AFP. Most of the accidents involved cars skidding on icy roads. meteorologist Jonathan Erdman said it takes a true "Goldilocks" scenario for Tokyo snow. "In this case, low pressure skirted close enough to the coast, but wasn't too strong to dislodge cold air near the surface. Hence, the rare heavy blanket of snow in Japan's capital."

MORE: Winter Storm Orion Hitting Coast-to-Coast

A police official looks around during a snowy day in Evanston, Ill., Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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