Cold May Cut Plans For New Year Travelers In China

The Chinese Year of the Tiger starts on Sunday , and so in China, millions of people are heading home to be with their families for the holiday.

BEIJING -- Severe rain and snowstorms may create delays and dangerous road conditions for millions of travelers going home for the Lunar New Year this weekend, China's national meteorological bureau warned Friday.

The weeklong Lunar New Year holiday, which begins Saturday, is a time to return home for tens of millions of China's migrant workers who live in the country's cities.

Meteorologists urged travelers to closely monitor weather reports during the holiday period for harsh weather that could lead to icy roads and low visibility, according to a report posted on the China Meteorological Administration Web site.

China has experienced an especially harsh winter this year, with record-breaking blizzards in China's western regions of Xinjiang and Tibet and to the north in Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang province.

The cold front, which will bring snowstorms to northern China, will continue for one to two days, the report said. Rain is expected throughout southern China.

The weekend is the most important holiday of the year in China. The Ministry of Railways has estimated that 210 million passengers - more than Russia's population - will ride the rails during the 40-day New Year travel season, up 10 percent from the previous year. The holiday officially lasts six days, but many workers take a month off.

In 2008, heavy snowfalls and cold weather badly hampered travel during the New Year period, stranding millions of people at train stations. The snow that year was the worst in China in five decades, caused billions of dollars in economic losses and led to the deaths of 100 people.