Chennai breathed easy on Wednesday evening, as Cyclone Nilam moved away from the city after making a landfall at Mamallapuram, 50 km south at 6.30 p.m.

As the cyclone passed by, strong winds pounded the city throughout Wednesday, uprooting nearly 100 trees and creating traffic snarls in several parts. Chennai Port authorities removed their danger signal ‘7’ that had been in place on Tuesday.

The ‘Nilam impact’ also led to power cuts and battered streets. Schools and colleges will remain closed on Thursday, according to sources at the Collectorate. Powerful winds – travelling at speeds of 60-70 km per hour – prevailed in the evening, decreasing gradually, by night.

Around 4,000 persons from different fishing hamlets along the cost, particularly in and around Pudupattinam / Mamallapuram areas, were moved to safer zones. Those evacuated, most of them women and children, were advised to stay back in the relief centres until Thursday morning, when the gusty winds are expected to recede.  

A large tree on Poonamallee High Road near Pachaiyappa’s College and one behind Sangam cinemas were uprooted, resulting in a traffic pile-up. Trees on R. K. Salai, Binny Road, Santhome High Road and in parts of North Chennai including Royapuram and Choolai also fell.

Several localities plunged into darkness as power supply was cut. “Power was not restored till around 8 p.m. We thought it might be a preventive measure,” S. Mahendran, a resident of Thoraipakkam, adding that there had been no supply from around noon.

In most parts of the coastal belt, the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation switched off power in areas where there were overhead cables. “We cut power from Mamallapuram to Chennai. Localities around East Coast Road and Rajiv Gandhi Salai did not have power. We also switched off the supply to Avadi and Tirunindravur, to prevent the overhead cables from falling,” said an official. In Tambaram too, all 11 KV substations were turned off.

Although heavy rainfall was expected on Wednesday, weather stations, including the ones at Nungambakkam and Meenambakkam, recorded less than one cm of rainfall till 5.30 p.m.

However, during the past 24 hours, till 8.30 a.m. on Wednesday, Nungambakkam and Meenambakkam received 9 cm and 8 cm of rainfall respectively. Y.E.A. Raj, deputy director general of meteorology, regional meteorological centre, said “The cyclone made its landfall (process of storm moving over land) near Mamallapuram and is now moving northwest. It is expected to weaken and rainfall may decrease by Thursday.”

“A team will be deputed on Thursday to conduct a survey of the cyclone-affected areas and ascertain where exactly the cyclone crossed the coast,” Mr. Raj added. Vellore, Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts are expected to receive rainfall as the system is moving in that direction.

Chennai has so far recorded nearly 85 cm of rainfall against its annual average of 140 cm, thanks to northeast monsoon. Cyclone Nilam also brought in good inflow into the four reservoirs, which supply water to the city.  The steady inflow from catchment areas has added nearly 200 million cubic feet of water to the storage. This is equal to five days of drinking water supply to the city.

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