'We felt as though we were in the Himalayas,' say residents after hailstorm

The heavy hailstorm yesterday left citizens thinking if they were still living in Pune. Tilekarnagar saw scenes of frozen white streams and hills dotted with what looked like snow. While kids were elated at the rare sight, others had to shovel their way through

Between 4.30 pm and 5.30 pm yesterday, in the outskirts of the city, it hailed. Laxman Gadekar was away from home when he received a call from his wife that hailstorm has hit their locality, Tilekarnagar.

What the hail! Children play with pellets of ice, for the first time in their lives. Pic/Mohan Patil

The area, which has about 800 families (around 2,000 people), was lashed with big and small pellets of ice such as the locals had never seen in their lives.

This is not Kashmir: A scene after hailstones hit Tilekarnagar near ISKCON temple. Pics/Mohan Patil

Besides the hailstorm, there were heavy rains. When it was all over, the landscape was transformed into something like a snowed-under hill station.

A child holds up a ball of ice

“It rained for around an hour with heavy hail. My wife called me at my workplace, as my children were scared; it was very difficult for me to reach home from nearby Rajuri where I work. It was only Tilekarnagar where the hailstorm hit.

Surrounding regions of Kondhwa, at just half a kilometer of distance, witnessed not more than a drizzle. Water entered my television set, making it dysfunctional,” Laxman Gadekar said.

Shovel it: A Tilekarnagar resident removes layers of hailstones outside his house

But the children couldn’t have wished for a better day outdoors. There were half-foot layers of hails on all the roads in Tilekarnagar.

They buried their hands in the white pellets, balled then together and pretended it was snow. Grown-ups, however, had a lot of shoveling and scooping to do to clear the blocked roads and pathways, and roofs.

There were a few unseemly sights. “The ice-cold stream currents bore on them dead birds and piglets. Lifeless snakes stuck to the frozen water at many places,” said resident Santosh Jadhav.

Water entered many houses, destroying stored grains, furniture and electric appliances. The area, which is dish-like in shape and is surrounded by hills on all sides, was the worst hit in the city.

Only mild hail showers were reported in other parts, including Ambegaon-Narhe, Ambegaon-Pathar and Pimpri-Chinchwad Pradhikaran, on the city’s fringes. Rainfall recorded in the city was 1.4 mm, while in Lohegaon, the rainfall measured 1 mm.

“Leaves had fallen from the trees and all the surrounding hillocks were covered with hailstones. We felt as though we were in the Himalayas. Many people regularly take their cows and buffaloes for grazing on the nearby Katraj Hills.

The cattle were injured due to the continuous hail,” said Santosh Jadhav, adding, “The semi-frozen water entered our houses,” he said.

“I had to scrape the icy stones from my rooftop. I have not seen this side of nature in the last four decades,” Parameshwar Tolanure, another resident, said.

The hailstorm mainly hit Indapur, Baramati and Junnar in Pune district.

Polar cold wave behind hailstorm: MET

Jeevan Prakash Kulkarni, scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Metrology (IITM), said, “The cold wave from the northern polar region and moisture containing winds from the Bay of Bengal has clubbed together giving rise to the hailstorms. The condition would continue for another three to four days. It is too early to predict why this happened this year only.”

According to experts, cold polar winds normally hovering over Kashmir Valley has flown till Maharashtra. The normal height of the waves is at 5 km but has come down to 4 km. The El-Nino effect from the Pacific Ocean is responsible for this type of situation.

The moisture containing winds normally take 50-60 North latitude has shifted from 15-30 degrees North latitude; these are called Westerlies. These winds carry a lot of moisture which enters into clouds flowing along the cold waves. The moisture, once having entered clouds, freezes due to the coldness, traverses several times, forming big-sized hails waiting to fall till favourable conditions form. In the city area, concretisation prohibits the rain to fall; hailstones also diminish in size by the time they reach the earth surface.

Despite the disruption of normal life that Tilekar Nagar residents faced, not a single officer from the Pune Municipal Corporation visited the area, nor was any help extended to them.

Rs 400-crore crops damaged
A two-member team from the Centre yesterday visited hailstorm-affected Baramati and Indapur talukas to assess the damage to land and crop.

The district superintendent agriculture officer, Dnyaneshwar Bote, who accompanied the team, said that the damage that fruit gardens and crops suffered appeared to be permanent.

“We visited five villages of Baramati and Indapur taluka and found that the entire crop as well as fruit gardens were damaged,” said Bote. He estimated massive damage to sugarcane, jowar, wheat and pomegranate crops in a 30,000-hectare area in the district, amounting to more than Rs 400 crore.

“The farmers told us they has taken loans for the rabi crops: grape, sugarcane, jowar and wheat. But the heavy hailstorms in the past week (especially March 9) have rendered them debtors,” said Bote. 

The team, consisting of scientist Nilesh Gaikwad from National Research Center and RN Shinde of Food Corporation of India, would submit its report to the government today.

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