Brrrrrr... It's freezing cold

The city was never this cold in the past 44 years. The mercury column dipped to 1.1�C on Wednesday morning ' for the first time since the Met department started functioning here in 1968.

Before this, the temperature dipped below the 2�C mark 29 years ago. On January 21, 1984, the minimum temperature of the day was 1.4�C.

Professionals shivered and reached office late on Wednesday. Homemakers were a tad late in preparing the morning cuppa. Children remained inside quilts for few extra hours.

Nobody complained. For, it was the coldest day in four decades.

Weathermen attributed the historic dip in the mercury column to rapid decline of moisture in the atmosphere. "The day cold condition persisted in the city for four consecutive days because of abnormally high level of moisture in the middle-level of the troposphere. The vapour started evaporating from yesterday (Tuesday) and a sharp decline in the temperature on the first night of vapour evaporation is a trend," said Ashish Sen, the director of India Meteorological Department, Patna.

Tuesday night was freezing. So was the early Wednesday morning. But things improved later as the Sun resurfaced in the skies after playing truant for almost four days at a stretch. It made a "guest appearance" on Tuesday afternoon.

On Wednesday, the sun appeared on the skies at 8am. It glowed throughout the day, giving some respite to residents shivering in cold.

Weathermen claimed that the glowing Sun would push up the day and night temperatures over the next couple of days.

"We are expecting a gradual rise in temperatures over the next few days. The mercury column would go up by two degrees on each sunny day. Thus, we are expecting the minimum temperature to be around 3�C on Thursday and 5�C on Friday. The maximum temperature would be around 16�C on Thursday," said Sen.

The Sun is expected to shine in the next few days. But strong winds blowing from the west could negate its balmy effect as it did on Wednesday across the state.

The minimum temperature of the day hovered around 2�C in several places (see graphic). The Met department sounded a statewide cold wave alert on Wednesday.

The bone-chilling cold over the past few days has sparked a tussle of sorts among slum-dwellers and beggars to find a place in any of the 19 night shelters of Patna Municipal Corporation. Each one of them can accommodate 50 people. But often 500 people gather at a night shelter, triggering chaos.

Urmila Paswan, a street vendor who mostly spends winter nights at Mandiri Kathpool night shelter, said: "Around 500 people stay in the night shelter. Most of them are rickshaw-pullers or street vendors. There is always a tussle between the occupants here because of space crunch."

According to recent estimates, the number of homeless people in the city has crossed 25,000.

The Supreme Court of India had asked all the state governments on December 16, 2010, to ensure no death takes place in winter because of lack of night shelters.

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