Eight people dead, thousands stranded as huge snowstorm hits Japan



During the worst of the snow, about 1,500 vehicles were stranded on the Hokuriku Expressway in Fukui Perfection

Powerful winter storm battered the west coast of central Japan from late last week into the weekend and buried some areas with over 3 feet of snow.

According to the government officials, at least eight deaths were being blamed on the storm, which also wreaked havoc on travel by stranding 1,500 vehicles on a major highway.  

The heaviest snow fell along the west-central coast of Japan across the prefectures of Niigata and Toyama. This region is no stranger to heavy snowfall, especially in the mountains just inland from the coast. However, unusually cold air moving across the region allowed heavy snow to fall down to sea level and in areas that usually do not get this heavy of snow. 

The snow depth in the city of Toyama surpassed 3.3 feet (1 meter) for the first time in 35 years.

Even heavier snow fell farther to the north in Takada where an astounding snow depth of 8.2 feet (249 cm) was reported.

All of this heavy snow led to significant disruptions across the region late last week and through the weekend. Local media reported eight fatalities resulting from the storm, several of which involved people being buried during snow removal work. 

During the worst of the snow, about 1,500 vehicles were stranded on the Hokuriku Expressway in Fukui Perfection. The road is a toll road that runs along the west coast of central Japan. As of Monday morning, local time, about 100 cars were still stranded. This comes after 1,000 vehicles were stranded on a highway in Niigata after heavy snow in December.