Temperature touches 40-degree mark. Residents in suburbs too felt the heat till evening as the temperature peaked. Officials of the meteorological department said the delay in the onset of sea breeze was the key factor that led to soaring temperatures.

The city sizzled under sweltering heat on Friday, the first day of the peak summer season popularly known as ‘Kathiri', when the mercury level crossed the 40-degree Celsius mark.

The hot day had taken a toll on daily routine of the residents. Nungambakkam recorded 40.2 degree Celsius, four degree Celsius above the average. For the second day, the temperature during the day soared beyond 40 degree Celsius in Meenambakkam. It registered nearly 42 degree Celsius on Friday, making it tough for residents to even step out of their homes.

Juice shops and tender coconut vendors made brisk business as weary motorists stopped by to have a respite from the scorching sun. “I stepped outside only after 2 p.m. But, the heat had not subsided even then. Hot air that blew in the afternoon made it difficult to travel, particularly on arterial roads that did not have much tree cover,” said Rajesh, a resident of Aminjikarai.

Residents in suburbs too felt the heat till evening as the temperature peaked beyond 40 degree Celsius. The automatic rain gauges at Poonamallee and Avadi recorded 43.1 degree Celsius and 41.7 degree Celsius around 3.30 p.m.

Officials of the meteorological department said the delay in onset of sea breeze was the key factor that led to the soaring temperature. Normally, the sea breeze sets in around noon. But, on Friday, it was late by one hour.

Y.E.A. Raj, Deputy Director General of Meteorology, Regional Meteorological Centre, Chennai, said that the hot and dry westerly winds have firmly set in over the region. The hottest day of the decade was May 31, 2003 when the mercury level rose to 45 degree Celsius.

“The present weather pattern will prevail for two more days and the city is likely to experience day temperature peaking beyond 40 degree Celsius,” he said.

The Meteorological department, meanwhile, has nearly completed installing automatic rain gauges around the city. Eight of the ten gauges proposed around Chennai have been set up so far. The denser network of such facilities would help ascertaining the weather pattern better and offer predictions for the entire city. On teething problems in accessing the data recorded at rain gauges, officials said the information could not be uploaded owing to a technical snag and the problem would be resolved in one or two days.

Mr. Raj said as of now, the data from the automatic rain gauges are being reported on the website. “We will soon begin incorporating the data in preparing the weekly weather reports and forecasting,” he said.