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  India   All India  31 Dec 2019  Fogged-out Delhi sees coldest day in 119 years

Fogged-out Delhi sees coldest day in 119 years

Published : Dec 31, 2019, 2:56 am IST
Updated : Dec 31, 2019, 2:56 am IST

500 flights delayed; 6 die as car skids into canal in Greater Noida.

The mangled remains of a car after it fell into a canal in Greater Noida on Monday. (Photo: PTI)
 The mangled remains of a car after it fell into a canal in Greater Noida on Monday. (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: The national capital, which has been shivering under an intense spell of cold wave for two weeks, recorded its coldest day in December since 1901 on Monday, with the maximum temperature  plummeting to the lowest ever at 9.4°C. The city and its adjoining areas woke up to a thick blanket of fog that hit road, air and rail traffic. As many as 530 flights were delayed, 40 others cancelled and 21 diverted due to the dense fog. About  50-odd trains were also running late due to the poor visibility. The fog also spelt trouble for road commuters, as six people were killed and five others injured when their car skidded off the road and fell into a canal in Greater Noida late on Sunday night.

Severe cold conditions have been prevailing in most parts of northern India since December 15, and these conditions have further intensified in the last four days, with the maximum temperature dipping down to 8-12 degrees Celsius. Delhi has also been witnessing its most unforgiving winter in the past 22 years, with minimum temperatures falling to around 3 degrees Celsius for the past few days. On Saturday, the Safdarjung observatory, whose reading is considered the official marker for Delhi, recorded the season’s lowest minimum temperature at 2.4 degrees Celsius. The next day, the average minimum temperature was 3.4 degrees Celsius, four notches below normal.

On Monday, a thick blanket of fog also engulfed Delhi, while the minimum temperature settled at 2.6 degrees Celsius at the Safdarjung observatory. The visibility recorded by both the Safdarjung and Palam observatories stood at zero metres at 8.30 am. Heavy fog started to envelop Indira Gandhi International Airport around 2 am. A senior airport official said that the low visibility conditions lasted for about 10 hours, during which flight operations were badly affected. This year, the new air traffic control tower, thermal imaging cameras and first-of-its-kind 24x7 social media command centre are being used to manage operations during the reduced visibility conditions.

The poor visibility also caused major problems for commuters, with many people driving slow on the main roads. At several places, commuters were seen driving with emergency lights on as visibility on roads plunged below 50 metres. “I had a harrowing experience while driving from my house in Noida  to my workplace in Gurgaon,” said Ankita Sharma, who works with a private IT firm.

Even Delhi’s Air Quality Index (AQI) continued to be in the severe zone at 448 in the morning. In neighbouring areas of Ghaziabad, the AQI was 439, Faridabad (465), Noida (471), Greater Noida (448) and Gurgaon (344).  An AQI between 0-50 is considered good, 51-100 satisfactory, 101-200 moderate, 201-300 poor, 301-400 very poor, and 401-500 severe. Above 500 is the severe-plus emergency category.

The severe cold weather is likely to remain over northern India for two more days. Regional Weather Forecasting Centre (New Delhi) head Kuldeep Srivastava said this December has been the second coldest December since 1901. “Usually, January is the coldest winter month, but this time the mercury has broken decades’ records in December itself,” he added.

Minimum temperatures have fallen significantly from December 26 onwards, leading to severe cold wave conditions over Rajasthan, Punjab, Delhi, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh and north Madhya Pradesh.

Mr Srivastava, however, said that there could be a slight increase in temperatures in the next few days, as cold north-westerly winds are slowly getting replaced by easterlies, due to a change in the wind direction. “But the conditions would still remain very cold,” he added.

In its latest forecast, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) is expecting a fresh spell of rainfall and/or snowfall over Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh over the next four days and scattered rains over Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi, due to a western disturbance which has impacted the western Himalayan region.

Private weather forecasting agency Skymet meteorologist Mahesh Palawat said there could be hailstorm and lightning at isolated places over the region, including Delhi, over the next two days during the new year. “Since there is change in the wind direction, the fog may also reduce in intensity, but the enhanced moisture will create foggy conditions after January 4,” he further said.

Tags: fog, greater noida
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi