The weatherman has forecast possible snowfall in Darjeeling over the next few days, the first such probability at this time of the year in a decade sending ripples of excitement among residents and visitors alike.
Every winter sees snowfall in the higher reaches of Darjeeling such as Sandakphu and Phalut, and in some parts of Sikkim. But the flakes last fell in January-February on Darjeeling town and adjoining areas like Ghoom in 2008.
'There was also snowfall in 2012 (January 11) but it was at Tiger Hill and not in the town. We are keeping fingers crossed and hope the forecast turns out to be correct,' said Dipen Lama, a Darjeeling resident, referring to the prognosis by the Regional Met Office in Calcutta.
Met office sources said it was not necessary for the temperature to drop below zero for snowfall. 'The minimum might drop to three or four degrees while the maximum can be around nine degrees,' said a source.
Many in Siliguri are in touch with friends and acquaintances in the hills. 'I have called friends in Darjeeling and asked them to alert me immediately if it starts snowing. At least six to seven of us will go to Darjeeling on bikes. There is no question of missing the sight,' said Santanu Dutta, a Siliguri resident and biking enthusiast.
Earlier, snowfall had occurred in Darjeeling sometimes on key dates - January 1 in 2003, January 23 (Netaji's birth anniversary) in 2005, February 14 (Valentine's Day) in 2007 and January 26 (Republic Day) on 2008.
'(This time,) Western Disturbance has brought moisture and once it hits the sub-Himalayan region, there is always a chance of snowfall in the higher altitudes and rainfall in adjoining areas,' said a weather expert.
That's why there is forecast of snow in Darjeeling and rain in Siliguri, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and Alipurduar in the next 48 hours. Snow has also been predicted in neighbouring Sikkim, said sources.
Darjeeling locals can't wait for the white flakes. 'Six years back, many had rushed to Tiger Hill and enjoyed the snowfall. But to have snow in Darjeeling town is truly mesmerising,"' said Pratapaditya Guha.