Residents removing branches after an uprooted tree fell on their government houses in Sector 20 during the high-speed winds in Chandigarh on Saturday night. (Keshav Singh/HT)
Residents removing branches after an uprooted tree fell on their government houses in Sector 20 during the high-speed winds in Chandigarh on Saturday night. (Keshav Singh/HT)

Squall at 100 km/hr leaves Chandigarh powerless

Residents left high and dry as electricity and water supply not restored in a few pockets of the city even after 24 hours
By Munieshwer A Sagar and Rajanbir Singh, Chandigarh
PUBLISHED ON MAY 31, 2021 12:06 AM IST

A squall blowing at speeds up to 100 kilometer per hour accompanied by around 31 mm rain over an hour and a half left a trail of destruction in and around Chandigarh on Saturday night, with normal power and water supply still to be restored in some pockets till late on Sunday evening.

According to India Meteorological Department (IMD) officials, the squall began around 10:15pm on Saturday, and soon most parts of the city went into darkness. While the thunderstorm got over by around 11:30pm, light rain continued till the wee hours of Sunday.

Also read: High-speed winds batter Mohali, Panchkula

Around 72 trees and 60 electricity poles were uprooted due to the high-speed winds, damaging property and blocking roads across Chandigarh. Several transformers also developed snags.

“In many areas, an uprooted tree damaged the entire power line, taking down several poles with it. The horticulture department has removed these trees in a few areas, but a lot of work is still left before which normal power supply can resume in some pockets,” said an electricity department official, on the condition of anonymity, as he was not authorised to speak to media.

While in some sectors, the electricity supply was restored by the afternoon, many southern parts, including Sectors 33-39, 45, 48 and 49, reported much longer disruptions.

In parts of Sector 45, the supply was restored around 11am, but one-third of the sector was still without power till the time of filing of this story late evening. “Many residents have moved to the houses of their friends and relatives elsewhere,” said Sanjeev Bansal, president, resident welfare association (RWA), Sector 45.

A car damaged after an uprooted tree crashed on it in Sector 41.
A car damaged after an uprooted tree crashed on it in Sector 41.

Covid patients suffer

Residents also highlighted problems faced by Covid patients in home isolation due to the power outages. “Many patients and their attendants had a sleepless night as oxygen generators being used by them stopped working due to the power failure. We roped in an NGO, whose volunteers worked the whole night to ensure supply of free oxygen cylinders from their Covid Care Centre,” said Vinod Vashisht, convener, City Forum of Residents Welfare Organisations.

RS Dhillon, general secretary, RWA, Sector 34, said: “Power outages are seen each time there is a storm. When will the administration formulate a policy on weak trees that end up falling on electricity lines and creating havoc?”

“We have restored power supply in most areas. There are still some issues in a few pockets within some sectors. These would also be resolved soon,” said UT chief engineer CB Ojha, adding that an emergency WhatsApp group was created for better coordination between the electricity department and MC officials.

Cars damaged after an electricity pole fell on them in Sector 46.
Cars damaged after an electricity pole fell on them in Sector 46.

Water supply pangs

Disruptions in power supply also hit water supply in most parts of the city during the day.

Even though electricity was restored in parts of Sector 40, residents complained there was still no water. MS Rawat, president, RWA, Sector 40C, said: “There is no water supply to the first and second floors. On the ground floor, some houses got water, but at very low pressure.”

“Water supply has still not resumed. The department does not even have any diesel to run the backup generator for the booster pump,” said Jatinder Mehta, former vice-president, RWA, CHB Flats, Sector 49.

MC chief engineer Shailender Singh said: “The water supply was disrupted due to power disruptions. It will start in the evening, though the supply will be normalised only on Monday.”

Birds fall prey too

In Sector 37D, carcasses of around 200 parrots and 65 pigeons were found lying on the ground on Sunday morning.

Inspector Dharminder Dogra and volunteer Prince Mehra of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reached the spot after shocked residents called the authorities.

“The birds had been sleeping on the tree branches, that fell due to the high-speed winds, killing them. We took the carcasses and handed them over to the forest department,” said Dogra.

Carcasses of parrots found under a tree in Sector 37.
Carcasses of parrots found under a tree in Sector 37.

Weather outlook

With 31.8 mm rain on the intervening night of Saturday and Sunday, it was the highest recorded within 24 hours in May since 2014. According to the IMD, light rain and gusty winds are likely to continue from Monday to Wednesday.

In fact, the weatherman had made no prediction of the thunderstorm on Saturday night.

“The squall arose due to pressure differences and it is usually a short phenomenon. This is why the weather remained sunny on Sunday. However, a western disturbance will be active in the city from Monday onwards. Light rain up to 10 mm along with gusty winds at speeds up to 50 kmph and thunder can be expected to continue till Wednesday,” said IMD scientist Shivinder Singh.

A squall is defined as a strong wind rising suddenly and lasting for at least a minute. It was last on June 3, 2019, that wind speed had gone up to 98.8 kmph. More recently, on May 7, it peaked at 80 kmph. Similar wind speeds are not expected in the coming days.

Meanwhile, maximum temperature fell slightly to 34.9°C from Saturday’s 36.5°C. However, minimum temperature plunged by over 10 notches due to the squall, going down from 28.8°C to 18.5°C. In the next three days, the temperature is likely to continue to remain like this, with mercury oscillating between 21°C and 35°C.

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