China's first snowstorm of winter arrives early — in pictures
Much of northern China, including the capital Beijing, has been hit by freezing temperatures and early snowfall, sparking highway closures and flight and train cancellations.
The icy weather struck almost a month earlier than usual, leaving Beijing's Palace Museum in the Forbidden City blanketed by snow. Temperatures on Sunday night were expected to fall to their lowest for the period in the past decade.
Snowmen wear masks
With Beijing ringfencing the Chinese capital to protect against the arrival of COVID-19 infections from other parts of the country, even the snowmen were wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). State media reported that any snow that settles in neighborhoods with COVID-19 cases would not be removed.
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The early snow brought hundreds of thousands of people out onto Beijing's streets to play. It comes a day before more than 300 members of the Communist Party's Central Committee gather for their sixth plenary session, a highly secretive affair.
Perfect for Winter Olympics
In February, Beijing will be the first city ever to have staged the Winter Olympics and Summer Olympics (2008). The new stadium, built for snowboarding at Shougang Park (pictured), also got a sprinkling of snow. If winter isn't harsh enough in nearby Yanqing, northwest of Beijing, the Olympic ski center is likely to need 49 million gallons of water to create enough artificial snow.
Orange alert for more snow
Forecasters issued an orange alert for more snowstorms, the second highest level in China's four-tier warning system. Accumulations of more than 30 centimeters (11 inches) were expected in some areas. From the Wanchun Pavilion (pictured at Jingshan Park), the large flock of tourists could look down on snowy downtown Beijing and the Forbidden City.
Roofs turned white
The snowstorms first hit Inner Mongolia and northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Major highways were closed temporarily in Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing, and farther to the west in Shanxi province. In Beijing, flights were reduced at the city's two major airports and some high-speed trains were canceled or delayed.