Below freezing temperatures are making life more than a little annoying these days in the Spring City. The threat of frozen water pipes, bone-chilled extremities, increased car accidents and oddly, monster trucks blasting water into the air are just a few of the most obvious irritations associated with the week-long cold spell.
At the best of times, traffic management is not necessarily a Kunming strong suit, and over the weekend as temperatures plunged, things got worse. Patches of ice, especially along the elevated second and third ring roads, caused dozens of car accidents. Traffic police along nearly every stretch of highway leading out of the city also reported a steep spike in single car wrecks.
A total of 12 expressways faced delays or closures on Saturday and Sunday, with more expected over the next 24 hours. In particular, the Kunming-Shanghai Expressway and others heading east have been the worst affected. Delays in some places lasted for hours, and traffic jams through Chenggong reportedly stretched for four kilometers. Iced-over bridges are the largest concern, and nearly every news outlet in Kunming is advising motorists to slow down, follow other cars at a safe distance and otherwise drive cautiously.
While deteriorating road conditions and busy airport maintenance crews may be expected with this sort of weather, enormous trucks shooting a fine mist of water into the frozen air are perhaps not. And yet there they are, plodding up major roads spewing vapor several stories into the air. These 700,000 yuan (US$111,000) 'fog cannon trucks' (雾炮车) debuted just as the weather turned cold. Ostensibly designed to knock low-hanging pollution out of the air, right now they are making city streets a slick and dangerous mess.
The most concentrated cold weather chaos in the past has invariably fallen on Changshui International Airport. Having already established a reputation for functioning badly during patches of bad weather, Yunnan's air hub has reportedly fared well despite bouts of freezing rain. The facility employed 200 extra de-icing workers and, as of this writing, local media are reporting Changshui has "functioned normally". However, for the next day travelers are advised to carpool, drive carefully and allow for more time than usual when heading to the airport.
Travel annoyances and the proposition of continuously wearing parkas, hats and gloves indoors is obviously no fun. But to all those in Kunming working and studying with trembling blue hands, take heart. The coldest bit of weather is forecasted to clear up in the next day, with the return of windy but spring-like temperatures to warm us all up.
Top image: Weather
Second image: Patrick Scally