Delhi witnessed the coldest day of the season so far on Saturday as the maximum temperature dipped to 12.4 degrees Celsius, nine degrees below what is normal for this time of the year.
The minimum temperature was recorded as 4.2 degrees Celsius.
According to the weatherman, the cold weather conditions are set to continue for the coming three days.
"The minimum and maximum temperatures on Sunday are expected to be around 5 degrees and 12 degrees, respectively. Thick fog is also expected in the morning followed by a clear sky in the afternoon," said an India Meteorological Department official.
The coldest day of the season before this was Tuesday when the maximum and minimum dropped to the season's lowest of 12.7 degree Celsius and 3.7 degrees, respectively.
Delhiites wrapped themselves in extra layers of woolens as they woke up to a chilly and foggy morning today. The day did not provide any respite as the sun did not come out due to a light cloud cover throughout the day.
According to Met officials, the current weather conditions can be attributed to Northerly winds from the Himalayan region. "The weather was bone chilling today. I thought the sun would come out in the afternoon but that was not the case. The cold winds made the day all the more miserable," said Meghna Verma, a college student. The cold also forced many people to stay indoors on a weekend.
"I had to go to CP but decided to stay indoors since it was so cold,” said Raghav Channa, a resident of Rohini.
The cold wave has persisted throughout the week and the maximum temperature too has slid below 15 degrees Celsius on several days. According to Met statistics, the record for the highest maximum for the month of January was 32.5 degree Celsius recorded on the 28th of 2004. The record minimum is 0.6 degree Celsius recorded on 16 January, 1935.
Fog-hit trains make travellers wait in the cold
Fog continues to play spoilsport in train journeys as 100 trains ran late while 42 had to be rescheduled on Saturday due to poor visibility conditions across North India.
Choosing to run slow in foggy stretches, trains reached with a delay of between four and 30 hours in Delhi and elsewhere in the Northern Railway network, while many had to be cancelled.
Three trains — Lucknow Shatabdi, Kaifiyat Express and Swaraj Express — were taken off the schedule for a day. Forty-two other trains, including the Rajdhani Express trains to Howrah and Mumbai, had to be rescheduled.
Trains originating in the eastern and southern parts of the country were the worst-hit, a senior Northern Railway official said, adding speed restrictions were applied due to poor visibility.
This year the railways are a bit more equipped to fight fog as Northern Railway has installed fog-fighting technology in many engines.
The Delhi Division of Northern Railway, for instance, has installed Fog Safe Rail Device, which helps drivers ascertain signals in poor visibility.
This was supposed to be the railways’ answer to fog this year but the inordinate delays have rendered the technology as good as ineffective.
Railways invoke semi-automatic signalling system during dense fog to avoid any mishaps. This also leads to late running of trains, officials said.
"My mother has been stuck in the train from Bhopal for hours. I don't know when the train will arrive. It was the same on her way to Bhopal a few days ago, when the train was eight hours late," said Anita Sharma, a resident of Mayur Vihar, who was at Nizamuddin waiting for her mother.
More flight schedules likely to get disrupted
Even as dense fog disrupted flight schedules at the Delhi airport on Saturday, the condition is expected to get worse on Sunday.
At least one cargo flight had to be diverted after dense fog shrouded the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) in the wee hours of Saturday. Nearly 50 morning flights were also delayed by one to three hours due to poor visibility conditions.
The met department has predicted dense fog on Sunday as well, with visibility dipping below 350 metres on Saturday evening.
“We are expecting thick fog on Sunday because the humidity level is 100% and the wind is very calm,” said RK Jenamani, director in-charge, Met unit, IGIA. “There will be some improvement from Monday night and some respite is expected between January 11 and 13, as we are expecting some change in the weather,” he said.
“Areas across the Gangetic plains from Dhaka to Lahore are experiencing extreme foggy conditions. Delhi got a taste of it only from Thursday,” he said.
Low visibility procedures were implemented at the airport from 11.20pm on Friday till 11.48am on Saturday.
A Blue Dart cargo flight (BZ 304) from Ahmedabad was diverted back to its origin station early in the morning due to bad visibility at IGIA.
There were, however, no flight cancellations due to dense fog. A total of 279 flights were operated during this time.