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Monsoon two days away from town

scorching morning, dark and wet afternoon
(From top) A football fan uses a Brazil flag as a sun shield before the sky turned dark and poured. Pictures by Amit Datta, Sanat Kr Sinha, Arnab Mondal and Bishwarup Dutta

Monsoon is set to hit Calcutta by Tuesday, at least 10 days behind its expected time of arrival.

The Met office announced the meteorological equivalent of achchey din aane wale hain (good days are ahead) on a Sunday when the sun made way for a canopy of dark clouds, thunder, lightning, wind and rain that many might have mistaken for monsoon.

The depression over the Arabian Sea and Cyclone Nanauk that were holding back the south-west monsoon have apparently subsided, making way for the annual rain-bearer to move smoothly towards the city.

“The south-west monsoon was held back by a strong low-pressure zone over the Arabian Sea that had intensified into a cyclone. But the system has disintegrated and monsoon is now on course. It reach Calcutta within the next two days,” said an official of the India Meteorological Department, Delhi.

Monsoon usually arrives in Calcutta between June 8 and 10.

Weather scientists classified the afternoon storms over the weekend as pre-monsoon activity. Swirling, movie-like clouds accompanied by a squall, thunder and lightning brought heavy rainfall to the city on Sunday. It was a rerun of Saturday’s weather — sultry till noon, thunderstorm and rain in the afternoon and a tolerable Celsius at night.

Sunday’s weather was better in the sense that the rain lasted till about 8pm even after the squall blew past.

Just a perfect night for catching the Fifa World Cup action on the telly, with a soft cool wind blowing through the window.

The downside of the squalls was that lightning killed two persons in Howrah’s Uluberia. Prasanta Pal, 42, was charred to death while on his way home while Basanti Das met the same fate tending crops in her farm.

Sunday’s rain was not directly related to monsoon winds since the northern limit of its Kerala arm is still stuck near the southern coast of Andhra Pradesh. The squall has more to do with a south-western wind blowing moisture inland from the Bay of Bengal as well as a cyclonic circulation over Bihar.

Relatively small columns of cumulonimbus clouds formed in three districts north of Calcutta got into the act to drench the city.

Rainfall was skewed as parts of north Calcutta got more than the south. Between 3.10pm to 4pm, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s Ultadanga pumping station recorded 70mm precipitation. South Calcutta received moderate rainfall: Kalighat registered 18mm while Ballygunge got 17mm (see chart).

The Alipore Met office recorded 38.4mm of rain. The wet season’s perennial scourge returned with usual-suspect Thanthania going under a foot of water after 23mm of rain in the area.

Elsewhere, people made the most of the wet weekend afternoons, catching raindrops on outstretched palms from car windows and in the face on the terrace. The city was almost dark at 3pm as thick clouds accompanied by a strong wind enveloped the city. The Met office said the wind speed reached 57kmph between 3.15pm and 3.16pm.

Other than a handful of enthusiastic footballers, Maidan was empty in the afternoon. So too was Victoria Memorial. “It was soothing initially but drizzle turned into downpour in a matter of minutes,” said Akanksha Seksaria, a Delhi resident who had gone to Victoria with relatives.

Sunday’s maximum temperature was 38.3 degrees Celsius until the squall swept in. “The discomfort index will keep low on Monday as much of the humidity has been sucked out,” said G.C. Debnath, the director of IMD, Calcutta.