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Monsoon hostage, scant relief in squall

Commuters caught in the rain at Esplanade on Wednesday evening. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta

The short-lived storm on Wednesday evening after nine days of sapping heat and humidity was the lull before another spell of summer torment.

The weather office has warned of a Celsius surge between Thursday and Saturday, with the maximum temperature rising to 39 degrees in Calcutta and hitting 40 in some of the south Bengal districts.

The rain interval after one of the sultrier days of this summer was too fleeting to have a cooling effect and there is little hope of sustained relief until monsoon hits town, a weather scientist said.

The squall lasted just over a minute and parts of the city and its surroundings didn’t receive any rain. The Alipore Met office recorded 0.7mm of rain, but the Calcutta Municipal Corporation said it varied between 1.5mm and 3mm across the city.

When the skies darkened and the drum roll of thunder echoed through the city, Archana Basu was among those looking forward to getting drenched. “I thought we were in for a shower. I planned to go to our terrace and get drenched but the clouds flattered to deceive,” Archana, a resident of Tollygunge, said.

For most of Wednesday, the weather had been tormenting. Relief came after 6.30pm in the form of a squall that peaked at 54kmph and lasted just over a minute before tapering off.

There were no flight and train disruptions. No trees were uprooted either, officials of the civic body confirmed.

The wind speed dropped after a couple of minutes and the raindrops that Calcutta had been craving for began hitting the rooftops.

The rain fell steadily from 7pm, catching those on the move off guard. “When I got off a bus, the branches of trees were swaying wildly and the rain had started. I was carrying an umbrella as it hadn’t rained lately. I ran into a shop but got drenched anyway,” said Anasua Datta, 55, who was to meet her daughter at her office and go to a family function together.

Nupur Ghosh from Gurusaday Road was out shopping when the squall hit, sending her scurrying for cover. She wouldn’t have minded getting drenched but the rain became a drizzle after five minutes and then died down.

“I had cut short my morning walk today because of the heat. My T-shirt was soaked in sweat, reminding me of Milkha Singh wringing his vest in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. I quickly got back to my car for the AC,” she said.

Calcutta’s tryst with discomfort had started as early as 5.30am with the temperature at 30.4 degrees Celsius and relative humidity at 86 per cent. The combination took the discomfort index up to 58.8 degrees, four degrees above the comfort level.

It rose to 66.8 degrees by 11.30am and stayed around that mark for the rest of the afternoon before the short rain break in the evening.

Long-term relief will come with monsoon winds, currently being held hostage by a cyclone on the Arabian Sea, over 2,500km from Calcutta.

“The cyclone, christened Nanauk and located 670km south southwest of Mumbai, is restricting the normal flow of monsoon, which brings moist winds from the Bay of Bengal to Calcutta. It is moving west towards Oman. The movement of monsoon winds will resume once Nanauk’s effect lessens,” said G.C. Debnath, director of the India Meteorological Department, Calcutta.

Monsoon normally hits Calcutta between June 8 and 10.