Shiver ripples down the spine of Bengal

Santiniketan: A cold wave swept across the south Bengal districts of Purulia, Birbhum, Murshidabad, West and East Burdwan, Jhargram and West Midnapore on Sunday, courtesy a strong north-westerly wind.

Panagarh, West Burdwan, recorded south Bengal's lowest minimum temperature of the day at 5.2°C. The Birbhum town of Sriniketan, 2km from Santiniketan, came second at 5.6°C on what was its coldest day since January 9, 2013, when the mercury had plummeted to 4.9°C.

A cold wave is declared when the minimum temperature is at least 4.5°C below the normal for the time of the year, and is below 10°C in absolute terms.

The Met office has not announced a cold wave in Bankura since its minimum temperature of 8.4°C does not mark a 4.5°C plunge from the normal.#The Met office in Alipore said the weather in south Bengal districts was likely to remain cold for at least the next three or four days.

The cold wave conditions are the result of strong flow of northwesterly winds from the plains of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and northern winds from Sikkim, in the absence of any system in the Bay of Bengal that would bring in moisture, said a senior weather official.

"The winter here is sandwiched between northwesterly winds and moisture from the Bay of Bengal systems - moisture helps retain heat," said Sanjib Bandyopadhyay, a senior official at the IMD Calcutta. "The absence of moisture makes the air dry and cold."

Normally, the time around Makar Sankranti, which falls on January 14, is the coldest phase of the year in Bengal. During this phase, Sriniketan and Panagarh tend to witness the lowest minimum temperatures in south Bengal.

"This means we can enjoy the chill for another week or so," said Amit Kumar Sharma, 40, a Durgapur resident who has a catering business. "We have been waiting for the chill since December but it kept eluding us. We didn't have a very cold New Year's Eve. Now we are enjoying this cold spell, which has at last allowed us to bring out all our woollens."

District authorities have alerted their block development officers to look out for people suffering from the chill and to distribute blankets and warm clothes among the homeless.

"We have already distributed 10,000 blankets among pavement dwellers," Bankura district magistrate Moumita Godara Basu said.

10.6°C IN CITY

Calcutta recorded a minimum temperature of 10.6°C on Sunday, the lowest in five years and the lowest on January 10 in at least 10 years, the Met office said. The minimum is expected to stay between 10°C and 11°C till at least Wednesday.


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