Delhi experiences dark, stormy morning (Lead)

May 15th, 2008 - 12:10 am ICT by admin  

New Delhi, May 14 (IANS) Delhi saw an unusually dark May morning Wednesday as a menacingly overcast sky and strong winds gave way to a massive storm that uprooted trees and led to huge traffic snarls. While it was a pleasant early morning after a light drizzle, the sudden overcast skies, the wind and the huge swirls of dust caught people unawares as they were on the way to work.

According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the wind speed recorded at Palam airport in the morning was 104 km an hour.

“At Palam, the wind speed was 104 kmph but at Safdarjung it was 81 kmph. The rainfall recorded at that time was 7 mm,” S.C.Bhan, director of IMD, told IANS.

Bhan said that such weather was typical during summers. “After winter recedes and summer sets in, it’s usual to expect such kind of a weather,” Bhan said.

Aditi Sharma, one of the many commuters on Delhi’s roads when the storm broke out, said that driving at that point of time was a nightmare.

“It was a lovely morning and I was enjoying my drive on the Ridge Road. All of a sudden, the winds lashed at us. With the drastic drop in visibility, driving became very difficult and everyone had to turn their headlights on,” said Sharma, a media professional.

Though she wanted to pull to the roadside for a while until the storm died down, Sharma said she continued driving on for fear that a tree or a heavy branch might just crash on her car.

“The traffic was moving at a snail’s pace - at 15-20 kmph. Just to cheer myself up, I decided to listen to old Hindi melodies on the rain,” she added.

For others, however, the experience was terrible.

“It was scary. When I boarded the Metro from Central Secretariat, it was warm and sunny after a light drizzle. But when I got off at Delhi University, the weather had taken a complete turn,” said Mahi Sharma, a student.

“Initially I thought it must be a power cut since it was so dark. But when I stepped out, the storm nearly pushed me back. With no rickshaw-puller in sight, I was stranded in the Metro station for a good 20 minutes,” she told IANS.

For Rajiv Mehra, a resident of Chanakyapuri, the situation was worse.

“When the storm started to die down, I decided to go out and take a look. I was shocked to see my car partly crushed under a big tree! An electricity pole was also uprooted, adding to the damage,” he said.

Parts of the city were in near darkness and New Delhi seemed to have faced the brunt of the storm with the tree-lined boulevards of Ashoka Road and Ferozeshah Road littered with uprooted trees and broken branches. Giant trunks blocked the roads, resulting in traffic jams.

On Ashoka Road, trees had fallen on cars but the police could not immediately confirm if there were any casualties. The stretch between South Extension and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) also was affected as an uprooted tree blocked three of the four lanes, resulting in major traffic snarls.

The parking lot of central Delhi hotels like Shangri La were also hit by the storm as falling branches damaged many of the parked cars.

Most two-wheeler riders along the DND flyway that connects Delhi and Noida were forced to stop on the roadside until the storm died down.

The storm lasted for about an hour-and-a-half and had calmed by 11.15 a.m.

In some areas, electricity supply lines were snapped. Aruna Mehra, a homemaker and a resident of Safdarjung Enclave in south Delhi, said that there was a power cut for about 20 minutes in her area.

In Gurgaon, Delhi’s suburban town in Haryana, alerts were sent out on the public address systems in high-rise condominiums asking people to shut their doors and windows.

The weather, however, turned sunny as the afternoon set in.

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