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'Artificial' snow closes highways in China

Fri, Feb  20, 2009 - By

Kely Mikolajczyk found this extraordinary news in the IrishTimes:

China closed 12 highways around the capital Beijing today because of heavy snow brought on after seeding clouds with chemicals, state media said.

All outbound highways were closed in Hebei, the drought-hit northern province surrounding Beijing, after heavy snow fell last night, Xinhua news agency said.

In all, 12 highways, including one linking Beijing and Shenyang, capital of northeastern Liaoning province, were closed.

Hebei got its first heavy snow of this year yesterday. The provincial weather bureau said that snow too was "enhanced" by artificial seeding.

"The snow has brought moisture to the soil, which may help end the drought," Guo Yingchun, a senior engineer of the provincial meteorological observatory, was quoted as saying.

She said that 313 cigarette-size sticks of silver iodide were fired into the clouds from last night to this morning, "a procedure that made the snow a lot heavier".

Hebei forecasters said flurries would continue through tonight in the northern part of the province.

Beijing is enduring its longest drought in 38 years, according to weather bureau records.