Beijing residents woke up to a white world yesterday, as the parched capital welcomed its first snow of the season after waiting for 107 days.
However, the light snowfall caused some travel disruption on the first working day after the week-long Lunar New Year break.
The snow started on Thursday night in the city's suburban Fangshan district and spread into central areas at around 4am yesterday. Average precipitation around the city reached 1.1mm by 8am, official monitoring showed.
The Beijing weather bureau issued a yellow alert for road ice, the lowest of its three-level alert system. The city's traffic bureau said seven bus routes had to be diverted due to ice.
Snow caused delays to 52 flights and forced the cancellation of 34 more at Beijing Capital International Airport by 1pm, according to Xinhua.
While snow was forecast to continue falling into the night, it is unlikely to clear the air pollution that has been lingering in the capital for two days, though the levels of PM2.5 pollutants - particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter that pose the biggest health risk - have dropped.
The city's weather bureau said the smog would be dispersed over the weekend.
Despite the continuing pollution, Beijing residents were cheered by the snow and posted photos on social media.
"The snow has finally come to Beijing," read the Chinese characters written in snow on a widely shared picture online. Some also sent out greetings on the first working day of the Year of the Horse, citing a traditional Chinese saying that a good snowfall heralds a prosperous year ahead.
Beijing usually sees snowfall before the end of November, but the only previous precipitation of any kind this winter - a mere 2.5mm of rain - was on October 22.
The capital did see sporadic flurries in some suburbs over the winter, but they were too light and isolated to be recognised as a citywide snowfall.
Before yesterday's snow, Beijing had recorded its third-longest winter stretch on record without snow. The longest stretch of 124 days was in 1970, and the second longest, 108 days, in 2010.
He Lifu , a weather forecaster with the China Meteorological Centre, told Xinhua the delayed snowfall was due to insufficient water vapour in the atmosphere in northern China.
The relatively small amount of snow in Beijing comes amid a prolonged drought in the area.