A sudden change in weather conditions in sub-Himalayan Bengal and the neighbouring state of Sikkim over the past couple of days led to snowfall in the upper reaches of Sikkim and in Sandakphu, the highest point in Bengal located in Darjeeling hills, during the past 24 hours.
Rainfall, along with a storm, occurred in some parts of the Himalayan state since Friday. As a result, crops got damaged and a number of roads got blocked as trees fell with debris, especially in the Pakyong district.
Sources said due to the storm, the electric supply got snapped in the area. The district administration has engaged officers and staff to assess the damage. “Work has started to restore the road connectivity and for restoration of power,” said a source.
Glimpses of snow-clad Sandakphu, the highest point in Bengal located in Darjeeling hills, on Sunday. File photo
The storm brought down trees along local roads in Namcheybong, which include stretches like Pakyong PHC-Basilakha, Lalturning-Basilakha, and Pakyong-Pricklakha.
“People who had cultivated flowers and vegetables have suffered losses. The final assessment is yet to be done,” the source added.
Due to the snowfall, the administration didn’t issue permits to tourists till Tsomgo (Chhangu) Lake and Baba Mandir, the two tourist hotspots located in the Gangtok district of the state, from the state capital.
“Permits were issued only till 15th Mile so that tourists do not get stranded in these locations,” said a tour operator based in Gangtok.
Over the past few months, tourists have got stranded along Jawaharlal Nehru Marg, the road that connects Tsomgo Lake with Gangtok. Hundreds of them were rescued by the Indian army personnel and later shifted safely.
Also, earlier this month, seven tourists lost their lives as an avalanche occurred near 15th Mile.
“Even last Thursday, the army rescued around 70 tourists, including senior citizens, women, and children, who got stranded amid inclement weather in Kupup and Gnathang areas of the state. That is why, weather conditions are being considered before permits are issued,” said an official of the state tourism department.
Like Sikkim, it snowed in Sandakphu on Saturday evening. The entire area and some other stretches of Singalila National Park were under ice cover. In Darjeeling town, there was a bout of hailstorm at the same time.
Sources at the Indian Meteorological Department said an upper air trough stretches from sub-Himalayan Bengal and Sikkim to Chhattisgarh across Bihar and Jharkhand.
“It is causing the snowfall, hailstorms, and rains, along with strong gusty winds. There is a forecast of similar weather conditions during the next few days,” said an official.