Snow removal crews battling continuing heavy snowfall finally won the day, clearing the way to reopen the Kan-etsu Expressway linking Tokyo and Niigata Prefecture on the night of Dec. 19.

The reopening came three days after motorists and truck drivers in hundreds of vehicles became stranded in a long line on the expressway due to heavy snowfall.

East Nippon Expressway Co. (NEXCO East), which manages the expressway, planned to lift the closure on the morning of Dec. 19.

But as it snowed more heavily since that morning, 80 snow removal vehicles enlisted were forced to repeatedly clear snow accumulations, leading to a delay, NEXCO East said. 

The inbound and outbound lanes between the Koide Interchange in Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture, and the Tsukiyono Interchange in Minakami, Gunma Prefecture, finally reopened to traffic at 9:30 p.m.

The vehicles had been stuck on the snow-packed expressway since the evening of Dec. 16.