Madrid snowfall grounds flights and blocks roads

Heavy snow continued to fall across much of Spain on Friday, causing chaos on the roads, particularly in the centre of the country, with the capital Madrid seeing its heaviest snowfall in 50 years.

Madrid snowfall grounds flights and blocks roads
Vehicles stuck on the M30 ringroad around Madrid on Friday night. Photo: Oscar del Pozo/AFP
By nightfall, the extreme weather brought by Storm Filomena had left many areas under a deep blanket of white in a rare bout of wintry weather not seen in decades to the Iberian peninsula.
As the snow showed no signs of letting up, Madrid's Barajas airport halted all incoming and outgoing flights.
“For safety reasons, operations have been stopped at #Airport AS #Madrid-#Barajas, until visibility is improved. The work to clear the runways continues in order to resume operations as soon as possible #BorrascaFilomena,” it tweeted.


The blizzard also caused havoc on the roads, with nearly 400 affected across Spain and hundreds of vehicles stranded in the snow and ice.
The worst-hit regions were Castilla La Mancha, Valencia and Madrid, with the capital seeing its heaviest snowfall since 1971, Spain's public television said.
Hours of intense snow which was still falling by 2100 GMT cut off the city's two main ringroads, the M30 and the M40, and a red alert was declared in the city centre where police struggled to help people stranded in vehicles.
Some vehicles drive slowly as others remain stuck in the M30 ringroad in Madrid due to a heavy snow storm on January 8, 2021. Photo: Oscar del Pozo
The transport authority said the snow had disrupted traffic on almost 400 main roads, where in many cases lorries and heavy goods vehicles were unable to pass, while many roads were only passable with snow chains.
On the secondary road network, more than 50 roads were impassable and around 170 roads required chains.
And hundreds of lorry drivers were held up across the country.
The AEMET weather agency described the situation as “exceptional and most likely historic”.
Earlier in the day, children in Madrid could be seen hurling snowballs or playing under snow-covered palm trees, while others snapped photos of the rare whiteout which began in earnest the day after Spain celebrated King's Day — or Epiphany. 
AEMET had earlier warned another 20 centimetres (eight inches) of snow was expected in Madrid, the high central plains and the nearby mountain ranges, which could rise to 50 centimetres in higher areas.
Firefighters push a car stranded on the M30 ringroad. Photo: Oscar del Pozo/AFP   
High-speed trains between Madrid and Valencia were cancelled, the Renfe rail network said.
With many areas struggling to cope with the heavy snowfall, the historic city of Toledo asked the army for help clearing the streets as did Albacete in the southeast, public television said.
Forecasters said the heavy snow would continue until Sunday after which it would subside gradually as Storm Filomena begins moving northeast, although the temperatures would remain exceptionally low.
Before the snowfall began on Thursday morning, temperatures had already plummeted, reaching an unofficial record low of -34.1 degrees Celsius was recorded at a ski station in the central Pyrenees on Wednesday morning.
Storm Filomena has also brought intense rain and high winds to the Canary Islands as well as the southern coast of the peninsula, AEMET said.

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Spain urges holidaymakers to head home early due to snow and strong wind warnings

Nine Spanish regions were put on alert on Tuesday for heavy snow, rain and strong winds, with the country's traffic authorities calling for people taking holidays this long weekend to head home early to avoid the worst of the bad weather.

Spain urges holidaymakers to head home early due to snow and strong wind warnings
Vehicles stuck in traffic due to a heavy snowfall near Burgos, northern Spain, in March 2021. Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP

Aragón, Castilla y León, Catalonia, Navarra and the Basque Country will be on orange alert from Tuesday for snow storms, while Asturias, Cantabria, La Rioja and La Comunidad Valenciana are on the less-severe yellow alert, Spain’s State Meteorological Agency (Aemet) announced.

A slight increase in temperatures will increase the risk of avalanches in the Pyrenees and the central Cantabrian mountain range.

Some roads in the north of the country are already being affected by snow and are being restricted to some traffic such as trucks and heavy vehicles.

Spain’s traffic authority (DGT) called on residents in the northern half of the country to return early from the puente (long weekend) marked by the public holidays of December 6 and 8, ahead of heavy snow forecast for Wednesday.

Of the 108 main roads affected by the heavy snow in Spain, almost half of them are in the northeastern region Aragón.

Aragón, Catalonia and Navarra are at risk of avalanches, according to data from Aemet, while a storm warning has been issued for the coastal areas of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Catalonia and the Basque country.

Heavy rainfall is expected in Galicia, extending to Cantabria and the western Pyrenees.