Banihal/Jammu, Jan 23 (PTI) A massive snow-clearance operation is underway to restore the 270-km Jammu-Srinagar National Highway which remained closed for vehicular traffic for the third consecutive day Wednesday, officials said.

The snow clearance operation on both sides of the Jawahar Tunnel – the gateway to Kashmir – was started and the snow-clearance operation is going on in full swing, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Traffic National Highway, Pardeep Singh Sen told PTI. An avalanche had also struck the Jawahar Tunnel area on Tuesday, blocking both tubes on Qazigund side. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which maintains the Jawahar tunnel stretch of the highway, pressed its men and machines to clear the road of the accumulated snow yesterday itself, Sen said. We are expecting the highway to be open for traffic by late afternoon. However, only the stranded vehicles will be allowed to move on the highway once we get the green signal, he said. Hundreds of vehicles, mostly trucks, are stranded at various places along the highway, the only all weather road linking Kashmir with rest of the country, officials said. They said the road from Banihal, which recorded over two and a half feet of snow, to Jawahar tunnel was also being cleared, while the Banihal-Ramban stretch is almost clear after agencies concerned removed minor landslides and stones which came down at different places due to incessant rains.

Jammu woke up to a sunny morning, providing relief to the denizens of the city who were reeling under intense cold after the mercury nose-dived due to inclement weather over the past four days. The day temperature is expected to rise after plummeting to 10.4 degrees Celsius yesterday 8.4 degrees below normal during this part of the season, a spokesman of the MET department said. The night temperature also marked a slight dip and settled at 8.3 degrees Celsius against the previous night’s 8.7 degrees Celsius, the spokesman said adding the night temperature continues to remain over one degree above normal owing to cloud cover.

He said Katra, the base camp for the pilgrims visiting Vaishno Devi shrine, recorded a minimum of 6 degrees Celsius, while the snow-bound areas of highway including Banihal and Batote townships along with Badherwah in Doda district were reeling under sub-zero temperature. Batote was the coldest recorded place in Jammu division with a low of minus 2.4 degrees Celsius, while Banihal and Bhaderwah recorded a minimum of minus 0.3 degrees Celsius.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.