The cold spell that gripped the nation over the weekend continued to dump heavy snow in mountainous regions Monday and brought Nagoya its heaviest fall in 58 years, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

In central Tokyo, the mercury dropped to minus 0.8 degrees in the morning, the lowest for December in 10 years.

The snowfall had eased by the afternoon. However, agency officials still called for caution against avalanches in mountainous areas.

By 9 a.m. Monday, 2.29 meters of snow was recorded in the hot spring resort of Sukayu, Aomori Prefecture, while 2 meters fell in Tsunan, Niigata Prefecture.

In Nagoya, 23 centimeters of snow had fallen by 8 a.m. It was the heaviest snowfall since February 1947.

Snow fell to a depth of 57 centimeters in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, one of the areas hardest hit in the October 2004 Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake.

Snowfall was the heaviest for December in 35 locations around the country, including 1.96 meters in Shirakawa, Gifu Prefecture.

Snow disrupted transport services. Sections of expressways that pass through Aichi Prefecture were closed, including the portion between the Okazaki Interchange in Aichi Prefecture and Yokaichi in Shiga Prefecture along the Tomei and Meishin expressways. Traffic was regulated in other sections of the highways in the area.

In Nagoya, railway services, including the Tokaido Shinkansen Line, were disrupted by snow. The Tohoku Shinkansen Line, which joins Tokyo and northern parts of the country, was also affected.

Snow severed power lines in Niigata Prefecture overnight Sunday, causing blackouts of up to four hours in the prefecture's north.

Forecasters predicted up to 40 centimeters of snow in northern mountainous regions overnight Monday.(IHT/Asahi: December 20,2005)