Year's first rainfall for Beijing
（Xinhua） 12:23, March 12, 2013
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BEIJING, March 12 (Xinhua) -- The first rainfall of the year fell in Beijing Tuesday, after weeks of haze, dust and drought.
The city's weather bureau said precipitation averaged 4 mm in the six hours from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. The average volume reached 4.2 mm in downtown areas, and 4.9 mm in the northwestern suburbs.
The Baihepu Reservoir area in the northern suburbs of Beijing received the largest precipitation, totaling 11.8 mm in the six-hour period. Between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., the downpour measured 5.2 mm.
Most parts of the city had drizzle Tuesday morning, while snow was reported in some rural areas in the northwest.
The rain and snow slowed down traffic during rush hour. Beijing traffic police authorities said the average speed was 36.4 km per hour at 7 a.m., lower than normal.
At least one expressway, which links Beijing and Lhasa, was partially closed Tuesday morning on safety grounds.
The rainfall is expected to ease Beijing's drought and clean the air, which has been suffocating due to smog and dust for the past few weeks.
The rain comes just in time for a nationwide forestation campaign, as Tuesday is China's tree-planting day. The date was set in 1979 to promote forestation and environmental protection.
Citizens are encouraged to travel to the suburbs on this date to plant trees. Newspapers and TVs often feature officials digging holes and watering saplings.
Beijing authorities said the city plans to plant an additional 30,000 hectares of trees in its suburbs this year. Meanwhile, public green areas in the city proper will be expanded by 1,000 hectares.