White New Year’s Eve in Shimla this time (Lead)

December 31st, 2010 - 3:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Shimla, Dec 31 (IANS) It’s a white New Year’s Eve for the first time in eight years with the season’s first snowfall cloaking this Himachal Pradesh capital Friday, but the weather office has warned that the picturesque blanket might stay for only three-four days so tourists will have to hurry.According to the Met office here, it snowed in Shimla on New Year’s Eve in 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2002.

The town experienced a moderate spell of snow but chances of more snowfall are less as the western disturbances - storm systems originating from Caspian Sea in the Central Asia and moving across the Afghanistan-Pakistan region - have started retreating, it said.

However, the snowy landscape is expected to remain three to four days, the Met office said.

“The western disturbances have started withdrawing from the region and by tomorrow (Saturday) the sky will be crystal clear,” Manmohan Singh, director of the meteorological office here, told IANS.

He said there might be one or two mild spells of snow late in the evening.

“But the snow will stay for three to four days in the town as the temperature has plummeted sharply after rains and snow. Moreover, its accumulation is not so much that it would stay for longer duration,” he added.

Shimla Friday recorded a low of 0.1 degrees Celsius.

The town’s commercial centre The Mall Road, the historic Ridge, the US Club and Jakhu hills received around four inches of snowfall, whereas lower areas in the town like Khalini, Kasumpti and New Shimla saw only snowflakes and sleet.

However, nearby tourist destinations like Kufri, Fagu and Narkanda have been experiencing heavy snowfall in the past two days.

As news of the snowfall flashed in the plains, tourists started descending on Shimla to celebrate a white New Year’s Eve.

Shimla, known for the imperial grandeur of buildings that were once institutions of power when it was the summer capital of British India, has not been seeing much snow in the last couple of years.

Besides one mild spell of snow (8.2 cm) Jan 13, 2010, there was no snow at all here last winter.

Likewise, in 2009, the town saw just two mild spells of snowfall and those flakes too melted within a few hours.

On Feb 12, 2007, the town experienced 62 cm of snow, the highest snowfall on a single day in the past 99 years. Other highs were 55.9 cm (Feb 18, 1978) and 54 cm (Feb 2, 2002).

R.K. Sood, a former joint member secretary of the State Council for Science, Technology and Environment, recalled that once in the early 1960s, the minimum temperature of the town had plunged to minus 13 degrees.

“Earlier, the minimum temperature remained below the freezing points for weeks together. It took days to clear the roads and frequent spells of snow kept the town marooned for weeks. Now, there is a lot of gap between one spell of snow and the other,” he added.

Environmentalists blame deforestation and rising pollution for the change in the town’s climatic conditions.

The heavy snow in Himachal Pradesh has seen over 100 tourists, mostly from West Bengal, being stranded in Himachal Pradesh’s Kinnaur district after roads were closed due to heavy snowfall, an official said here Friday.

All of the tourists are fine but there is an acute shortage of food and necessary items.

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