Western, northern and central parts of the country with elevation above 2000 meters were covered in a blanket of snow, the first this winter season, yesterday. The first snowfall of the year was recorded on January 24 in Haa and Gasa.

The National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology (NCHM) had forecast the snow and posted an advisory on their social media page on December 15.

Deputy Chief of the Weather and Climate Service Division, Tayba B Tamang, said the weather was due to a cyclonic storm formed along the Bay of Bengal that caused the precipitation in the country. “Southern and eastern Bhutan received light to moderate rain as per the record at 9am on December 18.”

As per the record with NCHM, Gasa dzongkhag received the heaviest snowfall yesterday with about 12.9cm thickness. Haa followed at about 12cm while Thimphu and Paro recorded 1.5cm and 1.27cm each. It started to snow in Thimphu around 3:30am yesterday. Bumthang recorded about 6.8cm of snow. NCHM recorded the data at 9am yesterday.

Tayba B Tamang said the snowfall was heavy and that the record would change. He said partly cloudy weather is forecast across the country today. “The weather is likely to improve from today.”

The home ministry declared a holiday to those dzongkhags that experienced the first snow of the season. Five dzongkhags according to NCHM received snowfall yesterday.

Due to the weather, Bhutan Airlines and Drukair cancelled most of their scheduled flights.

Drukair’s chief executive officer, Tandi Wangchuk, said that only one flight could take flight, from Paro to Gaya to Bangkok.

He said that flight coming from Bangkok had to halt at Bagdora. “It tried to land in Paro in the evening but had to go back.”

A flight from Singapore that was to land at Paro yesterday was also diverted to Bagdora. The flight tried to land at Paro in the evening but had to be diverted to Gawahati. “All other flights were cancelled. We will try and reschedule to our best ability today but again it depends on the weather. Announcements will be given through BBS and social media.”

Bhutan Airlines also updated the delay and cancelled flights on their social media page.

Bus services plying through Dochula were also cancelled yesterday. This, according to Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) officials was due to heavy snow along the pass.

An official said that RBP visited the site thrice yesterday and allowed four-wheel vehicles to pass through the site twice. “The accident at Nikachu wasn’t due to the snowfall,” another official said.

The Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) is also monitoring roads across the country.

RSTA’s director general, Pemba Wangchuk, said that public transport taking the Dochula route were stopped at Simtokha for safety. “Following days would be quite risky with formation of ice and loose soil that could cause falling boulders. We caution the people to drive safely and avoid driving at night. Commuters can contact RBP and RSTA for any queries.”

Phurpa Lhamo