Wednesday, December 25, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Rain breaks long, dry spell
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 24
Widespread rain in the plains and heavy snow in the upper reaches of the Himalayas have not only brought cheer to farmers, but also to Christmas revellers throughout the region. In fact, the rain today has broken a long dry spell. After the withdrawal of the monsoon in the end of September this year, no rainfall has been reported from anywhere in the region till this morning. Following heavy snowfall in the upper reaches, a biting cold wave has swept large parts of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, besides making people in the plains shiver because of chilly winds and overcast sky.

Meteorological experts said following a steep fall in the temperature in the Lahaul Spiti belt of Himachal Pradesh, almost all lakes, including Chandertal and Surajtal, have frozen. The temperature from that region has been reported at —10°C. Certain areas in the Spiti valley have been cut off from the rest of the state, it is learnt. The Rohtang Pass has also had a good snowfall thus leading to its closure, according to reports reaching here.

Snowfall on the eve of Christmas has added a new spirit to those preparing for the celebrations in the hills in this connection for the past few days. As snow is also expected in Shimla and adjoining areas tonight, tourists are expected to flock to Himachal Pradesh’s capital tomorrow for festivities and to participate in the New Year celebrations which usually start every year almost with the Christmas festival.

When asked to comment regarding the today’s rainfall, the Director, Agriculture, Punjab, Dr R.K. Rampal, said, “We welcome it”. In fact, he said, the farming community was awaiting the rainfall for the past few days eagerly. The dry spell was a prolonged one . The rainfall at this stage would be very beneficial for the farmers not only in Punjab, but also in Haryana and other parts of the region. He said reports of rain had come from Ludhiana, Patiala, Amritsar, Sangrur and Bathinda areas”. If it had not rained for another10 days, the dry spell would have adversely affected the rabi crops , especially wheat,” he added. Between 33 and 23 hectares of land are under the wheat crop in Punjab and Haryana, respectively. The remaining area is under other traditional rabi crops.

The rainfall in the region started early this morning. While it was only light showers in City Beautiful, areas like Amritsar, Patiala and Ludhiana had a good rainfall. A senior official of the local met office said, “While the rainfall was only in traces in Chandigarh (which could not be measured), in Amritsar it has been recorded at 6 mm and in Patiala 3 mm. It was 2 mm in Ludhiana while in Ambala it was 0.7 mm and in Hisar 0.5 mm.

The rainfall has led to a fall in the day and night temperatures in the region. The local met officials said the minimum temperature recorded at Bhuntar today was around 1°C while in Shimla it was around 4.4 °C and Una 1.6 °C. At Kalpana in Himachal Pradesh, the minimum temperature recorded was —2.5°C. Interestingly, in Amritsar, which normally remains the coldest place in the plains during winter, the minimum temperature recorded today was 9.6°C about 5°C above normal.

Weather experts say today's rainfall will mark the onset of the cold wave in the region. Though winter started about a month back, till date the day temperature remained a bit cosy. While it has brought cheers for the farmers and those participating in Christmas celebrations, poor labourers and rickshawalas, consider the cold wave a bad news. It will hit them financially as well as physically. The daily job market shrinks and labourers are rendered jobless because of the fog and cold wave conditions.

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