Shimla, Feb 3 (IANS) Himachal Pradesh has been witnessing frequent spells of snowfall with extremely bone-chilling conditions this winter and weather experts describe this as a natural phenomenon after a long break.
Another spell of snowfall is expected with chances of widespread rain in the state from February 5-8, India Meteorological Department Director Manmohan Singh said on Sunday.
“In January and February, on an average five western disturbances are normally active in the Himalayan region each month. After a long gap, we are seeing the occurrence of western disturbances in the state one after another this time and their occurrence is also timely,” Singh told IANS.
Western disturbance is a meteorological term for a storm system emanating from the Mediterranean Sea which causes rain or snowfall in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent.
Last winter a drought-like situation prevailed in the state, badly impacting the state’s Rs 7,000-crore fruit economy, mainly apples, and also tourism as snow draws more tourists.
Apple orchards usually need low chill in December and January.
Old timers recalled that for almost two decades Shimla has not recorded the kind of heavy snow that used to paralyse life in winter for over a fortnight in the past.
“Continuous decrease in snow cover has already been observed over the last two decades. This winter we are seeing frequent spells of snow after a long time and this will sufficiently recharge groundwater that helps overcome water shortage in peak summer,” Hari Sood, a retired government employee settled in Shimla since the early 1940s, told IANS.
Another octogenarian Jai Singh Thakur added that icicles, a common feature till the 1980s in Shimla, this time brought alive memories of harsh winters.
An icicle is a pendent spear of ice formed by the freezing of dripping rooftop water.
Both recalled that in 1990 the town was cut off from the rest of the country for weeks due to heavy snow.
As heavy snow has eluded this erstwhile summer capital of British India in recent times, the “snow manual” of the administration, followed since the Raj, has virtually been lying in cold storage, admit officials.
The Shimla Snow Manual lists the responsibilities and duties of the administration during snow such as the setting up of control rooms, deploying men and machinery to clear roads and pathways as well as maintaining power and drinking water supplies.
The plentiful snowfall has also cheered up the ski and snowboard industry concentrated mainly in the picturesque tourist resort Manali, which is dependent upon snow cover for both recreational and elite competition levels.
In the past, the Solang ski slopes, 13 km from Manali, had seen insignificant snowfall many times and locals involved in skiing were planning to move towards the higher hills to attract adventure lovers.
Officials say 2008-09 was pretty bad for skiing as the slopes witnessed scanty and erratic snowfall throughout the winter.