Mumbai Rains: City paralysed, IMD gets its forecast wrong

Heavy rainfall again brought Mumbai to its knees as the city received a record-breaking volume of rainfall in the past 24 hours. If the situation is to be seen in Mumbai, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) failed to issue the correct forecast on Sunday or on Monday morning for extremely heavy downpour from late Monday night to early Tuesday morning.

According to the Hindustan Times, on Monday till 8 pm, the forecast said ‘intermittent rain with heavy to very heavy falls in few areas’. After showers intensified around 11 pm, it was changed as late as 2 am on Tuesday on IMD’s website (after exceptionally heavy rain) that ‘isolated areas could receive extremely heavy rain’.

KS Hosalikar, deputy director general, western region, IMD, told the leading daily, “On Monday, we had issued rainfall warning of heavy to very heavy rain in some areas, but it was not anticipated that extremely heavy rain would occur. The highly localised weather system developed very fast and we could not include such forecast in our 24-hour warnings. This happened due to a cloud patch over the Mumbai suburbs with maximum rain intensity over Santacruz that led to continuous extremely heavy showers for six hours straight. However, warnings were modified and authorities were notified by 12.30am Tuesday morning, and our website was updated by 2 am.”

Heavy rains lashing Mumbai since Sunday threw rail, air and road traffic out of gear, with several trains and flights being cancelled. With IMD forecasting of heavy rains for Tuesday, authorities declared a holiday in the city and adjoining regions, asking people to avoid stepping out of their houses.

Shubhangi Bhute, scientist, IMD Mumbai, told the Hindustan Times, “It was not realised that there would be a continuous downpour in one go as when heavy to very heavy rain with isolated extremely heavy showers take place, there is break in the downpour, but in this case that did not happen. Weather models showed that the east-west wind shear zone (weather system) leading to very heavy rain with isolated extremely heavy downpour had weakened and Mumbai’s Doppler weather radar did not indicate any significant cloud development.”

Monsoon was active over the entire north Konkan belt, including Mumbai, with IMD predicting heavy to very rainfall over most places and extremely heavy rain at a few places. On the IMD's forecast, Joshi said the intensity of the rainfall is likely to get intense during the next 24 hours in Mumbai and suburbs. From 8.30 am on Monday to 8.30 am on Tuesday, BMC’s weather stations recorded an average rainfall of 163 mm in the island city, 329 mm in the eastern suburbs and 309 mm in western suburbs, she said.

Mumbaikars were of the opinion that prior arrangements could have been made if warnings were issued earlier. “Even if a brief mention of extremely heavy downpour was made by IMD six hours in advance, it would have given the BMC as well as citizens some time to either vacate low lying areas or take remedial steps to ensure rainwater did not enter homes,” said Brijesh Chawla, resident of Andheri (East), told the leading daily.

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