One swallow doesn’t a summer make. A spell of rain, hail and snow will bring bad and hazardous weather to many states, prompting worries that it could spoil harvests, clog highways and trigger landslides.
An intense “western disturbance”, or a squally weather pattern, that set off in Iran is headed toward India and will take hold from Friday onwards.
The stormy weather could ruin ripening winter crops, such as wheat, again this year. Most northwest states will get rain on March 11-13. Predictions that hailstorms could hit farms in Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have prompted the government to issue a farm alert.
Daytime temperatures, which have been climbing steadily over many northern cities, will likely fall by 34°C between March 12-14 and then rise again, an official said.
The weather could be severe enough in Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, prompting a Met-office hazard warning. Heavy rains could hit pockets in these three states. “Landslides are a potential hazard these states should watch out,” a forecast official said, requesting anonymity. Driving in uphill regions could be risky too, he said.
A separate advisory from the India Meteorological Department called for immediate harvest operations, where possible. Last year, similar weather between February 28 and March 2, March 7-8 and March 14-16 flattened crops in about 10 million hectares in about 150 districts, or about a quarter of the country.
The wet and windy conditions are also likely in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Vidarbha, apart from Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal in the east.
Wheat, the main winter crop, is ready for harvest in most states. A series of weather shocks has already shrunk agricultural output and incomes, triggering a rural distress. Two-thirds of Indians depend on a farm-based living.
An advisory issued to farmers asked them to “maintain proper drainage channels” and “postpone irrigation”, apart from reaping mature crops immediately. Orchards in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir should use hail nets to protect from heavy snowballs, the advisory said.
Some of the havoc could occur in areas witnessing an acute farm crisis, including Maharashtra’s Vidarbha and Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh.