Every monsoon Suguna Thirugnanasambandam, homemaker and a resident of Anna Nagar, stocks up on vegetables and candles, ensures that the emergency lamps are charged, books LPG cylinders well in advance and stores enough water. “If there is a storm warning, I remain indoors and watch the TV for weather bulletins,” she said.

As cyclone Nilam looms, many middle-class households across the city are resorting to the same practices honed over generations to ensure the safety of families. “Last year in October, a huge branch fell off a tree in my house and blocked our road for some time. So this time, I took care to prune several trees in the garden. I also checked my inverter and filled battery liquid,” said R. Badri, a resident of Thoraipakkam.

Autorickshaw driver S. Gopu of Adyar said that he would set aside a portion of money for any emergencies during the coming days. “This is a time when sudden expenses might crop up,” he said.

Many residents depended on TV and radio updates for information about the cyclone. Four years ago, when the chain of water bodies downstream of Chembarambakkam lake filled up and water was released, the Virugambakkam canal overflowed and flooded Porur, Virugambakkam, Valasarawakkam and Koyambedu. Though catamarans were readied to rescue the stranded, residents had to find their own places to stay until the water receded, a resident recalled.

This is as far as the inlanders are concerned. The fisherfolk, who depend on the sea for their daily income, confront the worst of any cyclone or depression. They cannot store up like most middle-class households do. “ We are awaiting the State government’s dole of Rs.4,000 per family for the lean season. Till then, we will manage with loans,” said T. Joseph, a fisherman of Nettukuppam in north Chennai.

Government agencies are working overtime. Chennai Corporation in coordination with the district Collectorate, fire services, police and fisheries have drawn up an elaborate plan in the event of any eventuality. “We have stocked up enough provisions, schools are open and kept in readiness to take in people, catamarans are positioned at low-lying places,” said Corporation Commissioner D. Karthikeyan.

However, many residents seemed already resigned to the water stagnation and uprooting of trees. “Already a portion of Rajiv Gandhi Salai has been cut near Thoraipakkam to allow water from the road to run off. Government agencies only ensure that water stagnation does not happen on the main roads,” opined B. Kannan, a resident of Okkium Thoraipakkam.

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