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Air, roads, ferry lines disrupted as hail-laden storms sweep city

SHANGHAI residents dodged hail, high wind and thundershowers yesterday afternoon as a violent storm system barreled through the area, postponing flights, canceling ferry service, snarling road traffic and causing power blackouts.

City meteorologists warned that there may be more bad weather today.

The Pudong New Area and Jiading, Qingpu and Xuhui districts suffered the most from hail the size of grapes.

College student Wang Chen was among those caught in the storm without an umbrella and had to protect her head with her hands.

"My back of my hands are black and blue," she said.

Zhang Lili, an employee of a high school in Xuhui, said the impact of the hail was so loud it set off car alarms.

"We were all frightened," she said. "Luckily the windows weren't smashed."

The thunderstorms, which roared in from Jiangsu Province in the north, dropped more than 3 centimeters of rainfall on Changning and Putuo districts and up to 2.8cm in other areas. Wind speeds ranged between 51 and 88 kilometers per hour, and the temperature in the Xujiahui area plunged by 10 degrees Celsius.

The storm delayed more than 40 domestic flights and 30 international flights, mainly from or leaving for Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea, at the two local airports, according to the Pudong Border Checkpoint. Two incoming flights were diverted to airports elsewhere.

Pudong International Airport suspended flight operations for 30 minutes around 5:30pm, and Hongqiao Airport, which serves mainly domestic air traffic, suspended flights between 5:44pm and 6:03pm before resuming normal operations.

Some city highways and streets backed up as drivers pulled over or slowed down as the storms cut visibility.

"Traffic from Pudong to Puxi on the Nanpu Bridge was heavily congested, and the driving lanes almost turned into a parking lot," one motorist reported at about 6pm yesterday.

In Xuhui District, 8,000 families suffered power outages lasting about 20 minutes. The Shanghai Electric Company said it received more than 1,300 repair calls between 2pm and 4pm, which was about three times the usual number.

"Such weather is rare - even in the summer," said Man Liping, a forecaster at the Shanghai Meteorological Bureau.

Forecasters called for cloudy skies today with the possibility of more thunderstorms, a high of 33 degrees Celsius and a low of 21.

They expect clouds tomorrow and temperatures ranging between 24 and 35 degrees.


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