Though rare these days, a "white Christmas" is nothing unusual in Darjeeling but this Hill town in West Bengal has never witnessed a "white Easter" till date. More than an hour of hailstorm painted the town white on Good Friday.
The town reeling under near drought like situation welcomed the heavy rain and the hail storm which definitely would came as a respite to the acute drinking water crisis.
It was also a bonus for the tourists flocking the Hill town for the short Easter vacation. "This is my third visit to Darjeeling but I have never witnessed anything like this. I am thoroughly enjoying the hail which has frozen into ice" stated Indrani Haldar a tourist from Madhyamgram.
Adding to this Samir Biswas from Garia stated "I have never witnessed snowfall in Darjeeling but this hail storm has made up for it." Tourists were seen busy clicking photographs against the icy backdrop while kids enjoyed throwing ice-balls at each other.
The hailstorm accompanied by lashing rain and thunder, started at around 11:30am and lasted for nearly an hour. The town had not witnessed hailstorm of such intensity in the past 10 years.
"The heavy rains and hail has come as a welcome respite to the drought like condition. It has filled up the Sinchal water reservoirs to a substantial depth. We had earlier decided to distribute water in tankers if the drought like situation continued and have even got a sanction of Rs 27 lakhs for this from the State Government. However with this rain, water will not have to be distributed in tankers" stated Amar Singh Rai, Chairman, Darjeeling Municipality.
With a near drought like situation and the water sources (springs) drying up even private water tankers had hiked up their rates. "Even if one was willing to pay the exorbitant amount, tankers were not available. With the steady tourist flow and the drought like condition, the water supply scenario had turned into a nightmare." stated Aslam Perwaz, a local resident.
The showers (except for the hail) has emerged as a saviour for the premium first flush Darjeeling tea. "Hail is very bad for tea and effects the leaves. Only three gardens including Orange Valley, Happy Valley and Teesta Valley witnessed hail. Other that these three gardens, the showers were a relief for the first flush. Productions were being hampered for this premium harvest as Darjeeling had missed winter rains this time" stated Sandeep Mukherjee, Principal Advisor, Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA.)
As per the data available with the Tea Research Association, in December 2009, Darjeeling had witnessed 3.8mm rainfall whereas in December 2011 the rainfall was Nil; In January 2010 the rainfall recorded had been Nil whereas in January 2012 Darjeeling had witnessed 8.6mm; in February 2012 the rainfall stood at 2.2mm whereas in February 2012 rainfall was Nil; in March 2010 rainfall recorded was 5.0mm whereas in March 2012 rainfall was 3.1mm only.
"The rain is owing to Western disturbances hovering over this region which has developed into Norwesters. Such conditions are expected to continue till the next 48 hours" stated Professor Subir Sarkar in charge of the Met-station located at the North Bengal University.