If you’re planning to get away next week for Khmer New Year, it might be wise to keep an umbrella on hand. According to the government’s weather authority, the country can expect the lowest holiday temperatures for the past decade amid unseasonal lashings of rain.
The mercury is predicted to drop by about 5 degrees Celsius below the average of recent years as a result of unusually heavy rains this month, said Chan Youttha, spokesman for the Water Resources and Meteorology Ministry.
“Of the last 10 years, the upcoming Khmer New Year will be the coolest. It is usually very hot,” Mr. Youttha said.
During the holiday period—from next Friday to next Sunday, when Cambodians traditionally celebrate with friends and family, and many return to their home provinces—the temperature could be about 34 to 35 degrees Celsius, he said.
“If we compare to last year and the year before, it was 39 to 40 Celsius and in some other places it was up to 42 Celsius,” he said.
This month has also seen more rain than usual, with heavy downpours lashing the country, along with strong winds and thunder storms.
One factor contributing to the early onset of rain this month (April is usually still the dry season) was the absence of the El Nino weather phenomenon this year, Mr. Youttha said.
The bouts of heavy rain that occurred over recent weeks are a “very rare occurrence” for this time of year, he added.
Food vendor and Phnom Penh resident Bou Chan Navy said she was caught unprepared for the early rain and flooded streets, which saw people scrambling for umbrellas and plastic rain cloaks.
“It is strange that there is rain in this season. This month, it is not supposed to be raining,” Ms. Chan Navy said.
Ms. Chan Navy could be caught out again soon—along with the rest of the country.
The rainy season, which typically begins in the second week of May, will start a week early this year, according to Mr. Youttha.
“The rain will start from coastal areas first,” he said.
The numbers of deaths, casualties and cases of property destruction resulting from severe weather have risen in the first three months of this year compared to the same period last year, according to the National Committee for Disaster Management.
From January to last month, six people were killed and 19 were injured in storm-related incidents and lightning strikes, compared to three killed and two injured in the same period last year, the committee said.
Six hundred schools and 379 houses were damaged by storms in the first quarter of this year compared to just three schools and 124 houses damaged in that period last year.
Less weather-related damage, injury and death occurred last year thanks in part to drought, said the cabinet chief and committee spokesman Keo Vy.
Heng Sreyneang, who works in marketing for an insurance company in Phnom Penh, said the cool weather was certainly strange, but could actually benefit her Khmer New Year plans.
“It’s supposed to be very hot right now, but it’s still like January,” Ms. Sreyneang said.
She planned to visit her grandmother and other relatives in Kampot province next weekend, adding that last year is was too hot to play her family’s favorite traditional Khmer New Year games.
“If it’s cold, we can play outside,” she said, though she added that she hopes the heavens don’t open.
“It it rains, it will ruin everything,” she said.
(Additional reporting by Matt Surrusco)