Sunday, April 14, 2024

Our adverse weather early warning work on What'sApp groups in the Darjeeling- SIkkim region: Thunderstorms of 11/12Apr2024 in Kalimpong

After the Teesta Valley GLOF of 04Oct2023, our region has been extraordinarily dry, with the erratic western disturbance activity in the winter months, robbing us of all our winter rain. In Kalimpong we had the first showers after Oct2023, between 19 & 27Mar2024 where we clocked 112.6mm. Thereafter, it has been dry with forest fires again starting in the Teesta Valley.
With regard to early warnings on adverse weather events and disbursement of information on landslides, road blocks etc, SaveTheHills has been running several very active and large What'sApp groups in the Darjeeling-Sikkim region called 'Hazard Alerts or HA' for many years now and the following cloud image on approaching adverse weather was posted in the group on 11Apr2024:

This image was posted on 'Hazard Alerts' WhatsApp group at 1.31pm on 11Apr2024 along with lightning warnings from the IMD 'Damini' (lightning warning) app. Shortly after this was done, the first storm hit our region at around 2.30pm. Wind speeds in gusts reached upto 58kmph.

This storm died down momentarily at around 4.30pm only to pick up again quickly. The following cloud image along with NOWCASTs from IMD were posted to members in the 'Hazard Alerts' What'sApp groups.
Warning posted at 5.36pm to our WhatsApp groups alerting them about another storm which was approaching.
Subsequent cloud images which show the progress of the storm from 6.45pm to 10.45pm on 11April2024

The thunderstorm which hit Kalimpong at 2.30pm on 11April2024, raged right thru the night and only ceased at around 8.00am on 12Apil2024. Surprisingly, we had only 2mm of rain however strong, gusty, westerly winds from Nepal along with lightning prevailed for more than 12hrs. The graphical analysis of the windspeed from our Davis Vantage Pro AWS is placed below:

Though there were no casualties or damage from the storm, what was unusual was its duration considering there was no major weather system (such as a depression/cyclone) near by.
Also what is possible today is to get reliable and accurate information of such weather events in advance and to disburse the same quickly to a large number of people. We have been doing this regularly in WhatsApp since Jun 2016.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Impact of the Oct 2023 Teesta Valley GLOF on road communications at Likhu Bhir on NH10 ( Kalimpong district, 13-14Apr2024)

On what is becoming a familiar story, NH10 is closed for maintenance work and again at Likhu Bhir - an old landslide, who's ghosts were resurrected by the GLOF of 04Oct2023 and is causing headaches to the District Admin & PWD and nightmares to those using the highway. It is closed again this weekend, seven days after it was shut down for repair last week.

Images of maintenance work taking place on NH10 at Likhu Bhir on 13Apr2024
My thanks to Mr Mukesh Sharma, reporter from Kalimpong for sharing these images with STH

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling Sikkim Himalaya

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Impact of the Oct 2023 Teesta Valley GLOF on road communications - the continuing nightmare at Pedong and Toong

Map showing trouble spots at Pedong and Toong

Traffic bottle necks at PEDONG
Pedong (27.1594° N, 88.6157° E) is a small town in Kalimpong district and is nowhere near the Teesta valley yet the impact of the Oct 2023 GLOF is being felt daily by the residents of the town.
The Teesta valley GLOF reactivated a dormant landslide at Likhu Bhir which continues to pose a problem for traffic along NH10 so the Kalimpong District Administration has again closed that section of the highway for the weekend as per this travel advisory:

As a result the entire heavy vehicular traffic to / from Sikkim to the plains of North Bengal is routing thru Kalimpong and Pedong causing huge traffic jams in Pedong. The vehicles have also damaged water pipelines causing disruptions in water supply in the town and damaged other infrastructure since the roads are narrow and were never intended to handle such heavy, continuous traffic.

Traffic jam at Pedong
Likhu Bhir landslides on NH10 (Nov2023)

TOONG bridge
The bridge at Toong was vital for communications to North Sikkim and when the GLOF took it down, traffic had to be routed thru a longer and more dangerous route which we took while going to Chungthang in Nov2023.
The locals had constructed a wooden bridge over the Teesta river in Feb2024 (see below) which was being used by light vehicles.
Wooden bridge at Toong in Feb2024
However, the recent rains in the area resulted in the bridge being damaged (see video)
Since the alternate route is longer and much more cumbersome, locals at once got down to repairing the damage (see images of 06Apr2024 below)

I don't think this bridge will hold out for much longer now that the pre- monsoon showers have started over our region...which leaves us in a rather precarious position with regard to all the GLOF damaged road communications in our region - a question which I asked back in Nov2023...

                               How do we manage in the Monsoons of 2024?

My thanks to all friends and HA members from Pedong, North Sikkim who made this report possible. Please stay safe.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling Sikkim Himalaya

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Views of the Teesta river after Cyclone Aila (May2009) and after the GLOF (Oct2023)

During our talks with GLOF affected people in the Teesta valley, they say that many officials, politicians and others often ask them why they built their homes so close to the river; to which they answer, 'No, we never built our homes close to the river - it is the river which has now come close to us!'

When I relate this during my talks on the Teesta valley GLOF, it often draws laughter from the audience - not realizing that I wholly share the views of the affected people:

The Teesta river which was once quite far from settlements has now moved closer to homes, roads and urban areas.

I visited the Teesta river on 11Jun2009, soon after Cyclone AILA (25-27May2009) and took photos of the river from the Teesta bridge. There were no dams those days but the river was still quite big because of the SW monsoons and Cyclone AILA.

After the Oct2023 Teesta Valley GLOF, again we made numerous trips to the Teesta river and photographed the river from almost the same spot on the bridge 14years later. I have placed both below for you to see how the river has moved closer to people's homes

Facing south (towards Siliguri)
Teesta, shortly after Cyclone AILA in Jun2009. Notice the level of the river visavis the Kalimpong to Darjeeling road on the right. The river was free flowing those days since the major dams on the Teesta were yet to be built.
Teesta river after the Oct2023 GLOF. Rainfall in our area totally stopped after 04Oct2023 (when the GLOF occurred) but the silt deposits had increased the river level as such it was flowing almost at the same level as the Kalimpong to Darjeeling road (on the right)

Facing north (towards Gangtok)
Cyclone AILA (27May2009) heralded in the SW monsoons that year as such the river is still quite large. Nevertheless the Teesta Bazar (left side) was not touched by the river even during Cyclone AILA
Our entire region had drought like conditions since the GLOF in Oct2023, yet the river stretches from one bank to the other and is flowing very close to homes in the Teesta bazar (left). The river is brown and loaded with silt and debris which is being dumped into the river by people excavating their homes and belongings all along the valley and also by the tunneling being done by the railway project. All in all the level of  the river bed has increased by 3-4m after the GLOF.

A makeshift road has come up on the right bank and leads to the new IRCON railway bridge being constructed next to the existing one.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya