Snow keeps schools, museums and courts closed in icy central Spain

Schools, courts and museums were closed throughout central Spain on Monday two days after the region was hit with a massive snowstorm.

Snow keeps schools, museums and courts closed in icy central Spain
Madrid's Prado museum remains shut to visitors. Photo: AFP

Schools across Spain have been suspended until at least Wednesday, the Education Ministry announced.

In Madrid authorities originally said schools would be closed Monday and Tuesday but then announced that they couldn't be opened until  Monday December 18th.

The premier of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso said: “It is necessary to fix damage [to schools] and guarantee a safe return to the classroom after the snow and the cold.” 

All classes will be suspended on Tuesday, with remote learning resuming from Wednesday.

Officials have asked people to stay at home if possible after Storm Filomena brought the heaviest snowfall in the region for 50 years, killing three people.

Emergency services and army snowploughs worked round the clock on Friday and Saturday to free some 2,500 drivers trapped in their vehicles.   

The army also had to clear the snow from Madrid airport, with some flights resuming on Sunday.

However, by Monday morning in Madrid, only main roads had been cleared of snow, with most pavements, smaller roads and residential areas still covered.    

Residents heeded the government's call to stay at home, with the capital's streets all but deserted.

Throughout the weekend, people had been responding to calls to help clear vital paths in their neighbourhoods to allow access to hospitals.    

“All of our friends agreed to come this morning just to clear the way from the bus stop to the psychiatry building of the Gregorio Maranon Hospital,” said 22-year-old Rocio Sedano.

“We want people to be able to walk safely.”   

The Madrid region, among the worst hit areas with levels of snowfall not seen since 1971, announced all educational and cultural institutions would be closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Courts would remain closed until Wednesday, officials said.    

The government has insisted the travel chaos will not affect the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, with 350,000 doses due to be doled out nationwide on Monday.


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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.