Double trouble heading for Jammu and Kashmir

After a brief pause, heavy rains will resume on Wednesday

By Akshay Deoras
Published: Monday 30 March 2015

After a brief pause, heavy rains will resume on Wednesday

River Jhelum river in spate after heavy rainfall (Photo: Shahid Tantray)

March started with a bang. It will also end with a bang. More rains are on the way for Jammu and Kashmir. The anticipated western disturbance and upper air trough have produced heavy rainfall in the state, particularly in the Kashmir valley and in and around Jammu.

In the past 24 hours (till 8:30 am IST on March 30), Katra had received heavy rainfall, measuring 139 mm. It was followed by 124 mm at Batote in Ramban district, 98.1 mm in Jammu, 72 mm in Banihal, 70 mm in Qazigund, 58 mm (precipitation) in Pahalgam, 50.6 mm in Srinagar, 40.1 mm in Gulmarg and 65.8 mm in Bhaderwah in Doda district . While the absolute amounts seem too low to trigger floods, the topography of the state makes it more vulnerable to flooding. Urbanisation has led to the collapse of natural drainage systems in Srinagar, causing an increase in water logging.

Reports of floods are emerging from Srinagar and other areas. Many areas in Jammu have been waterlogged due to rains. Mudslides have been reported from areas like Budgam and the state government has declared a flood. Two teams of 100 personnel of the National Disaster Response Force have been sent to Srinagar and hundreds of people have already been evacuated. Landslides have also been reported on the Jammu-Srinagar highway. It has remained shut today for the third day in a row. To make the things worse, Jhelum river has started swelling due to heavy rains. On Monday morning, it had crossed the danger level in Srinagar and Sangam areas of south Kashmir, as per reports. Schools have been closed for two days and board and university exams have been postponed. 

The effect of western disturbance is, however, receding. At the time of writing this post, Srinagar and Jammu were reporting a partly cloudy weather. As per the GFS weather model, the weather in the state will continue to remain a little cloudy on Monday and Tuesday. Light rains or drizzle can be expected in the state. This brief pause in rainfall will help in the receding of water from places like Srinagar.  Even the water level of Jhelum will decrease a little due to the absence of rains.

But come Wednesday and rains will once again commence in the currently affected areas. Rainfall will continue in periods till April 6. According to current estimates, western Jammu and Kashmir will witness heavy rains on Wednesday and Friday. Rains will decrease from April 4. 

This will likely bring back water logging and cause an upsurge in the water level of the Jhelum. As the river is already seeing an upsurge, even a little rainfall is likely to make the river exceed the danger level again. The authorities claim that, after last year’s flood, they strengthened the embankments and no breaches have been reported so far.

There will also be heavy snowfall in the higher reaches, causing landslides and avalanches in prone areas. This will keep the Jammu-Srinagar highway closed during the period from April 1 to 6. Srinagar airport may also see disruptions during this period due to water logging.

People living in these areas must stay alert. Following are the precautions people must follow: 

  • Keep with you water (at least a 5-day supply), food (at least a 5-day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food), flashlight, battery-powered radio, extra batteries, first aid kit, medications (7-day supply), cell phone with chargers, family and emergency contact information, extra cash, emergency blanket, tools/supplies for securing your home, extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes and rain gear.
  • Listen to area radio and television stations for authentic details. 
  • Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice. Stay away from landslide- and avalanche-prone zones. 
  • When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
  • Stay away from floodwaters and the river Jhelum. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off of your feet.
  • If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
  • Keep children out of the water. They are curious and often lack judgment about running water or contaminated water.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognise flood danger.

Akshay Deoras is an independent weather forecaster

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