Heavy snowfall thaws frozen memories of Simla

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Heavy snowfall has thawed frozen memories of Simla – the former capital of British India, as a thick quilt, not a blanket, of white blanketed the queen of the hills, now called Shimla, during of the last two days – the highest comes out in a decade and a half.

The elders recalled on Saturday that for nearly two decades Shimla, which was slated for a peak population of 16,000 and now supports more than 2.50 lakh, has not recorded this type of heavy snowfall.

Jiya Lal Panta, a retired government employee who has lived in the city since 1960, said that until the 1980s heavy snow was a normal feature of the city.

“If memory serves, the last time heavy snowfall occurred was during the winter of 1990-91, when the city was cut off from the rest of the country for more than two weeks,” he said. he declared.

Another resident, Kavita South, 77, said: “The last two days of snowfall in Shimla reminds me of childhood days when the blizzard dumped heavy snow causing travel disruptions not for days but for weeks.

“Heavy snowfall at this time forced authorities to close public services, schools, non-essential businesses and even banks.”

While heavy snow has escaped this former summer capital of British India in recent times, the administration’s ‘snow handbook’, tracked since Britain’s Raj, has all but remained in cold storage, officials admit. responsible.

The Shimla Snow Manual lists the responsibilities and duties of administration during snowfall such as setting up control rooms, deploying men and machinery to clear roads and trails as well as maintaining the supply of electricity and drinking water.

The local administration, before the onset of winter every year, holds a meeting to review measures and assign tasks to handle any emergency in case of heavy snowfall.

Officials admit that over the past few decades, this meeting – called the Snow Manual Meeting – had become a mere ritual.

“Over the years, the intensity of snowfall in Shimla has diminished, so the snow manual has lost its relevance,” admitted an official who did not wish to be named.

This time, electricity, landline telephones and cable television were cut off in several localities in Shimla due to the fall of trees on the power lines. The water supply was also hampered. Officials say it will take days for essential services to be restored.

However, Shimla woke up to a sunny Saturday morning after three days of snow.

Since the majority of the roads are snowy and dangerous due to slippery conditions and early morning frost, the local administration has ordered the closure of government offices, except for essential services, and educational institutions. of Shimla district.

The road leading to Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital, the state’s main hospital, is too slippery for traffic and pedestrians.

Moreover, the administration has asked tourists to avoid traveling in their vehicles beyond Shimla as the road is slippery after the snowfall.

According to the local Met office, over the past two days some areas of Shimla like the Ridge, American Club and Jakhu Hills have received over 60cm of snowfall.

Although the Shimla Municipal Corporation has started clearing Cart Road and some VIP roads, most of the other roads are covered with a deep layer of snow.

Journalist Himkiran Manta said that until the mid-1990s heavy snowfall was a normal feature of Shimla. Previously, there were four to five episodes of heavy snowfall throughout the winter and in between there were light to moderate.

“Now the intensity of snowfall is much less than in the past, but the miseries are more,” he said.

Previously, the civic body used to sprinkle salt on the roads before snowfall, which helped in the cleaning process.

“The government has encouraged the planting of ornamental trees in Shimla. They are fragile and uprooted with light high intensity snowfall. , he added.

According to Met office records, Shimla saw 62cm of snowfall on February 12, 2007, which was the highest in a single day for the past 99 years.

In 2005, there was 94.3 cm of snow last month but that was spread over seven days. In 2004, 96.6 cm of snow fell over the whole month of January.

Shimla, once a village that served as the summer capital of British India between 1864 and 1939 and the seat of government of Himachal Pradesh thereafter, is known as the “Queen of the Hills” — the nickname given to the hill station by the colonial Britons and the town still has 91 heritage buildings from the British era.

A coffee table book, ‘Har Ghar Kuchh Kehta Hai’ – literally meaning ‘every house tells a story’ – published by the state tourism department says the ‘summer capital’ spelling was Simla and the official addition of ah’ made it Shimla in the 1980s.

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