June 19: Calcutta's sputtering monsoon uncorked its spout this evening, unleashing the season's heaviest shower to wash away the sweat of a sultry day when 37.2 degrees Celsius felt like 53 degrees.
The Alipore weather office recorded 56mm of rain till 8.30pm. Anything above 54mm qualifies as heavy rain in meteorological parlance.
Columns of dark clouds had been gathering since afternoon, setting the stage for the downpour that started around 6.15pm in central Calcutta. Two persons police identified as Nasim and Mohammad Ali were electrocuted while walking down Dent Mission Row during the rain. Five people, including a child, died after being struck by lightning in Hooghly.
According to data provided by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, Joka received 73.66mm of rain and Dum Dum the least at 6.6mm. Ballygunge got 58.17mm and Behala 70.86mm. New Market and Ultadanga received 67mm and 49mm respectively.
The rain caused the Celsius to climb down several notches from the day's peak of 37.2, four degrees above normal. Weather portal AccuWeather.com's RealFeel reading - it denotes the impact of heat and humidity on your skin - in the afternoon was 53 degrees Celsius. This was the highest since the monsoon tiptoed into town on June 12. The maximum temperature tomorrow is tipped to be around 34 degrees, three notches below today's high.
Few complained about the inconvenience of traffic snarls and difficulty in finding public transport during and after the heaviest spell of rain. "I got drenched by the time I reached Park Street Metro despite carrying an umbrella. But it was better than getting drenched in sweat," said Kusum Sharma, who had stepped out of her office when the rain started.
The forecast is for more rain with conditions remaining favourable for the formation of thunderclouds. "Three weather systems are causing moisture to flow inland from the Bay of Bengal," said Sanjib Bandyopadhyay, deputy director general of the India Meteorological Department in Calcutta.
A cyclonic circulation over sub-Himalayan Bengal, Sikkim and its neighbourhood, a trough of low pressure from north-east Rajasthan to north-east Bay of Bengal and a similar trough from east Bihar to north Bay of Bengal are the active factors behind Calcutta's tryst with rain.
(Pictures by Sanat Kr Sinha and Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya)