Vehicles pass through NH31 near Darjeeling More at Siliguri on a foggy Monday morning. Picture by Kundan Yolmo
Jan. 7: Jalpaiguri today shivered as its temperature dipped to 5°C, a 30-year low according to the regional Met office.
Met office sources in Calcutta said a cold wave has been forecast for today and tomorrow, coupled with fog that could bring down visibility to as low as 500m.
“A western disturbance which has crossed the region on Saturday has removed the cloud cover bringing down the minimum temperature. It is a common phenomenon,” G.N. Raha, the regional meteorological officer of Sikkim Met office, said.
“In Jalpaiguri, the temperature dipped below 5°C this morning. This is the lowest minimum temperature recorded in the month of January in the town since 1983, when the temperature had dipped to 4.5°C. In 1964, it had gone down to four degrees,” the official said.
In the recent years, the minimum temperature recorded in Jalpaiguri was 5.2°C in 2003, he added.
The temperature in Siliguri also dipped to 5°C today.
“As the temperatures of Siliguri and Jalpaiguri remain almost the same throughout the year, it might so happen that today’s temperature in Siliguri is also the lowest in the past 30 years or so,” Raha said.
Specific data about Siliguri was not available as the town does not have a weather station.
According to Raha, the normal minimum temperature at this time of the year for Siliguri and Jalpaiguri is 10°C while the normal maximum temperature is around 24°C.
Today, the maximum temperature in Jalpaiguri hovered around 13°C.
Met office sources said the minimum temperature in Darjeeling was 1°C, Kalimpong recorded 3°C, Gangtok was at 4°C, in Cooch Behar the temperature was 6°C, Raiganj recorded 7°C, and Balurghat and Malda had 10°C.
“A dip of more than 5°C from the normal maximum temperature is considered as cold day condition. As the dip here is around 11°C (the difference between maximum normal 24°C and today’s maximum temperature of 13°C) we are calling it a severe cold wave. Such conditions may prevail for the next 48 hours at few places in Bihar, sub-Himalayan Bengal, Jharkhand and the interior parts of Odisha,” said a source at the Met Office.
“Moderate fog, reducing surface visibility to less than 500 metres might prevail at many places.” The official said: “In Darjeeling, the minimum temperature remains around 2-3°C at night and thus, there was no major departure yesterday.”
Siliguri and Jalpaiguri saw a cloudy and windy day today with the sun visible only for around an hour at noon.
Today, all flights from Bagdogra were cancelled because of the fog. “None of the flights could land here,” K.K. Bhowmik, the airport director said.
Several long-distance trains and buses bound for north Bengal from Calcutta, Patna and other places were delayed.
In Jalpaiguri, a one-year-old girl fell into a fire made by her family to beat the cold. Papiya Churnadhar was sitting on a chair near the fire.
“We had made a fire in front of our house to get rid of the cold,” Narayan, the father, said.
“She suddenly tried to get off the chair and fell into the fire.” Papiya has suffered burn injuries on her face and limbs and is under treatment at Jalpaiguri district hospital.
As people continued to shiver, shops selling woollens had their cash registers ringing.
“A good number of customers turned up today to buy woollens,” said Nima Bhutia, a woman who put up a makeshift shop of woolens at Bhutia Market in Hakimpara near Siliguri.