Dusk descended more than two hours ahead of time on Tuesday as a 15km tall cloud blotted out the sun, setting the stage for a thunderstorm accompanied by almost 60kmph winds that felled trees and brought down billboards.
A bright day with clear skies turned ominously dark in all of 30 minutes after the cloud gained in height and the squall built up, sending Calcuttans on the move scurrying for cover.
Uprooted trees smashed a few cars, including three parked in front of the high court and another on Camac Street. “I was in the car when a tree fell on it. I crawled out through the left door,” said Pankaj Tiwari, the driver of a Ford Figo damaged near the high court. A Hyundai i10 parked opposite the Pantaloons store on Camac Street had its roof crushed.
In Howrah, a 45-year-old homemaker identified as Nanda Sardar died when her mud-and-brick house collapsed during the storm.
Two persons were injured when a portion of their house on Chitpore Road collapsed.
Almost all the large billboards near the AJC Bose Road flyover were torn. An iron structure holding a billboard on the roof of a 60-year-old building near Park Circus gave way and the iron beams fell on some houses. Nobody was injured, police said.
The Met office recorded 14.4mm of rain in about half an hour. Calcutta had received rain on the previous two days too, though not a tempest as strong as Tuesday’s. The wind peaked at 58kmph for 38 seconds from 3.31pm.
“A cyclonic circulation over Bangladesh and Gangetic Bengal has been drawing moisture inland. Since the day temperature was high at 34.2 degrees Celsius, the moist air became warm and rose up. As it gained height, it cooled and the moisture condensed to form a very tall column of cloud,” said G.C. Debnath, director, IMD Calcutta.
Wednesday is unlikely to bring a fourth consecutive burst of rain because the weather systems pulling in moisture have weakened.