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Suddenly it's January in February as winter makes a re-entry

JANUARY IN FEBRUARY: A monkey stranded in snow in the Himachal hill resort of Kufri near Shimla on Saturday. - PHOTO: AP  

Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI: Just when Delhiites started putting away their woollens with the city along with the rest of North India experiencing a warm spell this past week, the weather gods sprang a surprise as the Capital woke up to a cloudy, wet and chill morning on Saturday.

Giving the city a second chance to experience the winter, the maximum temperature fell a good six degrees below normal to stand at 17.2 degrees Celsius, leaving the Capital shivering because of nagging rain all day.

"We've been warning people that winter is not over. The maximum temperature on Saturday was well below normal. This is why people are feeling very cold. The minimum temperature at 15.2 degrees Celsius is five degrees above normal. So the difference between the day and night temperatures is only two degrees,'' said a senior Meteorological Department official.

And for those dreading the long, endless summer months ahead, the news is that the current nip in the air is likely to continue for a couple of days more. "A western disturbance has created a low-pressure area over central Pakistan and neighbouring areas. This is creating the heavy weather and the entire Northern region is overcast. This cold weather is expected to continue. The forecast for the next 24 hours is rain and thundershowers accompanied by hailstorm and thunder squalls,'' said the weatherman. There is nothing unusual about the rain at this time of the year. The Capital sees rain at the end of January and a little rain in February. The average rainfall in February is 18.3 mm,'' added the weatherman.

And making up for the lack of rain this past month, the Capital recorded 9.5 mm of rain from 8-30 a.m. at Safdarjung, while it was 10.8 mm at Palam. Reaffirming the Meteorological Department's report, the BBC Weather 5 Day forecast on the website has a similar story. The next completely sunny day for the Capital according to the website will be Wednesday and there will be plenty of wet weather in between.

While it may have been a perfect weekend to sit at home and sip hot cups of tea and coffee, those who had to brave the rain and cold winds found the traffic moving at a snail's pace. At many places, commuters were stuck at traffic signals for a long time as most lights had gone on the blink.

On Friday night, passengers travelling to Delhi by air faced a similar situation. With the Delhi skies overcrowded, ten domestic flights were diverted to Lucknow, Jaipur and Ahmedabad. "There was a change in the wind direction and only one side of the main Runway 28 was in use, so we saw a lot of air congestion. This problem intensified as a few domestic flights also arrived late, which increased the traffic,'' explained an airport official.

PTI adds: People in Rajasthan woke up to overcast skies with sharp showers throughout the day confining people indoors.

Barmer in the desert State received 23.1 mm of rain, Jaisalmer 14.7 mm, Jodhpur 14.3 mm, Churu 11 mm and Dholpur 8.2 mm.

One person was killed and another sustained serious burns as they were struck by lightning near Bagru, some 25 km from the Pink City.

In the hill State of Uttarakhand, heavy snow and widespread rain not only threw normal life into disarray but also disrupted electioneering for the upcoming polls. The State was in the grip of a renewed cold wave as the mercury came down sharply.

Himachal Pradesh reeled under an intense cold wave as rain in lower hills and snow in high-altitude areas brought the temperatures down.

Dharamsala received torrential rain as the entire area around the famous tourist resort of Kufri near Shimla turned into a thick white sheet of snow.