Kunming, the capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province known for its warm and comfortable winter, turned white when it was hit surprisingly by heavy snow Sunday.
The snow managed to snag traffic Monday morning though it had stopped snowing.
At a main downtown crossroads at around 8:40 am Monday, 17 vehicles stood in line waiting for the green light.
"It cost me more than 30 yuan (US$3.62) to take a cab this morning, but I am still late for work," said a lady surnamed Wang. She usually took a bus to work.
The taxi driver, Zhen, said he had seen four traffic accidents in the morning.
The heavy snow resulted in 17 flights canceled and more than 60flights delayed at the city's airport Sunday.
About 6,000 vehicles with more than 20,000 people had been blocked on the expressway linking Kunming to Qujing, a city east of Kunming. The traffic jam lasted all Sunday evening till Monday morning.
The government closed the expressway and sent policemen to clear the snow on the road at 11:35 am Sunday.
Officials were sent to hand out food and water to people having to stay overnight inside vehicles on the expressway.
"I was so happy and almost cried when the government official knocked at the car window," said Wang, a driver who had been trapped by the traffic jam, cold and hungry.
The three major highways, including the Kunming-Qujing expressway, were reopened on Monday noon.
The city, known as "the City of Spring" due to its year-round, spring-like weather, was unprepared for the sudden snow and cold weather. The downtown area has been lying under five centimeters of snow since Sunday.
Three high-voltage wires were damaged in the snowfall and water pipelines in the northern suburbs broke as the temperature dropped to freezing point.
But repairs have been underway on the wires and pipelines and the work is going on.
The prices of vegetables and flowers are expected to rise by 30to 50 percent before the temperature returns to normal.
At two big markets in Kunming, the price of cabbages soared from 0.3 yuan (US$0.04) to 1.5 yuan (US$0.18) per kilogram, but the greengrocers were still doing good business.
"I specially carried more vegetables downtown this morning and they sold well at a good price," said Chu Aijun, a greengrocer living in the city's suburbs.
Although passengers in the crowded buses were complaining about the terrible traffic in the city and unexpected weather, children were throwing snowballs in the streets. Snowmen were seen everywhere in the city.
And the red-mouth seagulls, spending the winter in Kunming, were still flying high above the city.
(Xinhua News Agency January 7, 2003)