Beijing's heating was switched on two weeks early yesterday, as the city's residents shivered from the first snowfall of the season.
As temperatures plunged to 4 C, the urban administration commission said last night that it brought forward the November 15 date that central heating is switched on in housing and public buildings.
It came as snow fell on the capital on the earliest winter date in 22 years. Forecasters said that it began with sleet at about 2 am and was then followed by heavy snow from about 5 am.
Zhang Qiang, deputy director of the Beijing modification office, said officials "enhanced" the natural snowfall in an attempt to combat drought conditions in the city.
"Actually, we are very lucky to have snow at this time. The water in the snow will purify the air and enhance the humidity," Duan told Xinhua News Agency.
"Beijing hasn't rained for a long time, the snow will definitely ease the drought."
The first snow usually falls on Beijing on Nov 29, meteorological statistics show. The earliest snowfall since the founding of the People's Republic of China was on Oct 30, 1987.
"Due to the influence of the strong cold air from the north, this year's snow came one month earlier than usual," said Duan Li, the chief weather forecaster at the Beijing meteorological bureau.
According to Xinhua, the weather modification office launched into action from 8 pm on Saturday. By 7 am yesterday, it had shot 84 packages of silver iodide into the clouds above Beijing.
Early yesterday, authorities said the central heating would not be switched on earlier that the November 15 date, and officials would wait to see if temperatures remained cooler.
Yu Baoyuan, an official of Beijing heat supply association told METRO: "We've already provided heat to some important organizations in Beijing, like hospitals, schools and universities. All the preparations are done and we're ready. Once we are informed by the upper level administration, we can provide heat right away."
Beijing heating season usually starts from Nov 15 and ends on March 15.
Na Ying, a college student from Thailand, said she bought a first electric blanket at Ito Yokado shopping mall near Yayuncun yesterday.
"It's my third year in Beijing. The first snow in this winter is very heavy compared with the last two winters. I can't stand the freezing weather and I have to buy myself something to survive the cold days," Na said.
Wang Bin, a salesman at the department store told METRO that the sale of electric blankets were up 30 percent yesterday.
"People usually buy them before the coming of heat supply and our customers are mostly elderly people," he said.
Zhang Hui, a 52-year-old retired Beijing resident, said it was cold in his house.
"This year's snow comes quite early, I have to wear coat in my own house. In order to keep warm, my families and I start to use air-conditioning today. We hope the government will provide heat earlier this year; it is really energy consuming to use air-conditioner for heat."