The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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It’s February & it’s snowing
Freak flakes in Darjeeling

Feb. 14: Had you been in Darjeeling on Valentine’s Day, you could have said it with snow.

The last time you could have done so was 22 years ago, when V-Day’s favourite generation was yet to be born. The next time is anybody’s guess — tomorrow’s forecast does not look too bright.

An unusual — but certainly not hot — love affair between a low-pressure zone and plummeting mercury delivered the first February snow in Darjeeling since 1985.

The low-pressure zone is aptly christened “western disturbance”, a term that many would like to use to describe Valentine’s Day, too.

The same dalliance also brought snow to Kathmandu for the first time since — hold your breath — 1944.

Darjeeling today woke up blanketed in four inches of stunning white overnight snow — the heaviest in recent times. Since 6 in the morning, delighted residents and tourists thronged Chowrasta, the town’s famed promenade, scooping up balls of snow and throwing them at each other.

“I remember it last snowed in February (on the 19th) in 1985,” beamed Ratan Tamang, preening that he had been witness to both events.

Last night’s snowfall came without warning and after a day temperatures had been relatively high for these parts.

A brief shower brought temperatures down around midnight, and it began to snow around 3 am. The flakes fell without pause for over three-and-a-half hours, took a breather around 7 and then continued again till 9 am.

The usual suspect — global warming — was on some lips as a temperature dip is one of its “expected consequences”. But a scientist cautioned that “to pinpoint such changes to global warming, we’ll need to establish an increase in frequency which will take several years of observation”.

Weather scientists attributed the end-winter snow to a low-pressure zone that hung in transit over north Bengal. Such “western disturbances” are typically associated with wet weather, but a sharp drop in temperature results in snow — rather than rain — falling. The influence of such western disturbances is felt across 500-1,000 km, they said, explaining the first snowfall in Kathmandu in 63 years.

Many holiday-makers in Darjeeling, stranded by disrupted travel schedules, happily extended their stay.

“This is such a big surprise that we have decided to stay on for two days more,” trilled Sunirmal Ghosh, a tourist from Calcutta. “How could we miss the snowfall' We decided to come despite the slippery roads,” added Subin Pradhan, an architect from Kalimpong.

But the sky is expected to clear up tomorrow, according to the forecast.

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