The winter, normally a season of feast and joy in the region, otherwise known for its enervating summers, has brought with it a strange phenomenon in recent weeks. Record chill has sent people scampering to keep themselves warm, and made commuting a dicey task, especially at night.

The strange thing about this phenomenon this season has been that it gripped the Pothohar region and the plains of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well, contrary to the trend of the past few decades when nearly blinding fog mostly affected the plain areas of the Punjab.

This time around, the 50-year cold records in the Punjab plains were broken, while also plunging the wide swathes of Pothohar and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in an unprecedented cold spell, which spread over a fortnight or even three weeks, with weather pundits saying that maximum temperatures fell by as much as 10 degree Celsius.

After shivering even in the daytime during the two days in the 'aftermath' of fog-induced cold, Tuesday night brought with it some cheers for the winter-weary people, as a cloudy sky prevented fog to accumulate, also bringing visibility level back to normal for the traffic and keeping the temperatures from dipping to sub-zero level, as was seen in the previous two weeks.

The met office said that unprecedented foggy conditions in Rawalpindi-Islamabad would reduce to a "shallow fog" in the next couple of days, while rains beginning on Saturday may help clearing the remaining traces of this 'fiendish' weather.

Normally, the phenomenon of fog continues in the plains of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa almost throughout January.

However, there are chances that the intensity of fog will be reduced in these areas, especially after the expected rains in different parts of central Punjab in the coming days. "It will neither be too shallow nor too dense after rains," said Farooq Dar, a meteorologist with the Pakistan Met Department.

With fluctuations in gas supply for domestic use, the priority for people in the wake of plunging temperatures was to keep themselves busy and warm through devouring lots of good, vitamin-rich food, going for picnics and arranging get-togethers.

Flight schedules were also hit, as according to experts, the range and height of fog rose from the usual 2,000 feet to more than 4,000 feet.

Weather experts believe that change in climate patterns was behind the extraordinary foggy conditions in the Pothohar region and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

"This phenomenon is due to the inflow of cold air from Europe through Iran and Afghanistan, lack of rain and moisture in the air," added meteorologist Farooq Dar.

He said chilly winds coming from Siberia were also contributing to a great extent to the extraordinary foggy conditions.

He said the foggy conditions in Pothohar were due to dual movement of the winds. The soft winds from east were gradually pushing the dense fog from the plains of Punjab to Pothohar and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Dar said the fog had brought down the maximum temperatures of the twin cities by an average of 10 degree Celsius as compared to that in normal days of winter season.

After an unabated spell of dense early morning or even noon-time fog blanketing the horizon as witnessed during the past three to four days, people heaved a sigh of relief when sun finally came out on Wednesday morning, breaking the shackles of icy weather, and gave people much-awaited opportunity to warm themselves in glorious sunshine.

The restoration of normal conditions was a pleasant change from the weather of past few weeks when dense fog took a sway over the landscape from just an hour or so after the sunset, reducing the visibility level to as low as 15 meters and causing great difficulties to the motorists.

"I leave office mostly around 7pm and travel to Airport Colony which is at a drive of about 35 minutes from my office in Blue Area. Due to dense fog, it became really hard to drive the car as visibility level dropped quite low, extending my travel back home to nearly an hour," said Qaisar Shehzad, an employee at a private company.

"Vehicles travel at a snail's pace due to dense fog in the morning and we often turned up late for our classes," said a schoolboy.

The chances of accidents also increase, as the motorists have to adopt extra precautionary measures to drive safely in the foggy conditions.