Weak westerly wind has kept temperatures in check, say meteorologists; residents grapple with cuts in water, power supply

The showers a couple of days may have come as a relief, but the worst of summer is yet to come, according to meteorologists. The real hot season has just begun, and for the city's residents, summer this year has meant not just the usual sweltering heat but also cuts in supply of water and power.

Residents began feeling the heat as early as February. With the temperature soaring since, the city's beaches have seen a manifold increase in visitors, desperate to get away from their homes and enjoy the cool breeze.

A. Sudharshan, who runs a ‘chaat' stall on Marina beach, said: “Sales triple in April and May.” The beaches also reflect the need for more accessible, free public spaces. For not-so-affluent people such as J. Bhagyalakshmi, beaches are the place to find peace of mind amidst the daily grind of work. “Children too enjoy coming here,” the homemaker said.

Beating the heat

How do Chennaiites cope with the heat? While some can manage to stay away from the sun during the day, others who are on the go for their jobs have to do with some time-tested methods.

Construction labourer S. Perumal said he prefers to work outdoors as the breeze helps. He drinks plenty of water and has learnt that alcohol does not help in reducing heat.

R. Sabarinathan, an insurance company branch manager, covers about 150 to 200 km daily for his job. “In summer, I meet customers from 7.30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and then only from 3.30 p.m. I avoid consuming meat and alcohol. At office, we provide buttermilk and lemon juice,” he said.

P. Pathan, a constable attached to Sattankadu police station, said: “Earlier, I used to wear synthetic khaki material but suffered skin rashes. I have switched to cotton uniform. I drink ragi porridge daily,” he added.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to avoid the heat. “I have seen many elderly people fainting on the road during mid-May. The pollution, along with heat, makes summer unbearable,” the policeman said.

Yet to peak

Officials of the Meteorological Department, however, said we are yet to experience peak summer. The maximum temperature soared to 37 degrees Celsius on April 1 after which it reduced to around 35 or 36 degree Celsius.

Y.E.A. Raj, Deputy Director of Meteorology, Regional Meteorological Centre, said that as the westerly wind which brings in hot air is weak, the Chennai city is now having relatively bearable temperatures.

Though the weather in Chennai has been slightly above normal, it is better than other parts of the State.

As the season progresses, the city is bound to experience searing heat as the onset of sea breeze, the controlling factor of temperature, would be delayed. Last year, the mercury level soared to 41.1 degree Celsius in May.

The paucity of rainfall has led to decrease in piped water supply, forcing people to spend more on private tankers. Residents across the city, including Velachery and Saidapet, said piped water supply to sumps had decreased by half in the past few days. S. Rangan of Sarathy Nagar, Velachery, said residents of many parts of Velachery either complained of less or no water supply. Most of them depend on hand pumps.

The number of private tankers transporting water to the city and suburbs has been on the rise from April, with demand going up by 20 per cent. Several people in the suburbs pay Rs.5 for a pot of water.

Those operated for Chennai Metrowater have also seen an increase by 5 per cent, according to Metrowater Tanker Lorry Owners Association.

However, many lorry operators such as P.Rajendran of Kovilambakkam struggle to meet the growing demand, as sourcing water from distant areas has become difficult.

For those who cannot afford tanker supply, the groundwater resource has helped tide over the crisis. Rainwater harvesting has played a pivotal role in maintaining the average water level at 3.6 m below ground level in most parts of the city.

Health matters

The need for water gains more prominence during summer as it reflects on the health. Doctors say that if going out is inevitable, it is necessary to take plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration.

“People should drink lots of water to maintain urine output and electrolyte balance,” said K. Manoharan, head of the Dermatology Department, Government Stanley Hospital.

If adults suffer summer rash, children get exhausted. Water loss could make them weak and they may suffer cramps, paediatricians say.

(With inputs from K.Lakshmi R.Sujatha and Ajai Sreevatsan.)

What they say

Y.E.A.Raj, Deputy Director General, Regional Meteorological Centre:

People feel the heat more when they travel under direct sun radiation. As the summer advances, the temperature will make it uncomfortable for people as Chennai is known for its high humidity. The city may not sustain the high temperature for long hours as the onset of sea breeze will immediately cool the weather. Rainfall can be expected.

Yasodha, Fruit Vendor:

Summer has always been the season for brisk business. Vacation is the time when there is a growth in sales. I get a majority of customers who visit their relatives during weekends. Mangoes and oranges contribute to a major chunk of sales, followed by sweet lime and grapes. This year, there is dip in the arrival of mangoes and so I have stocked grapes, oranges and pomegranates in advance.

K. Manoharan, Head of Dermatology Dept., Govt. Stanley Hospital:

In adults, summer rash occurs when the salt from sweat blocks the pores on the skin. Some people suffer from fungal infection. Excessive sweating could be due to low immunity, conditions such as diabetes or a high dose of steroids. It is advisable to wear cotton clothes that absorb sweat

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