After epic snow and big freeze… now Madrid braced for floods

The start of 2021 has been a turbulent one weatherwise for Spain’s capital, recording the heaviest snowfall in at least half a century followed by a deep freeze that has seen the mercury plummet to record low temperatures and the snow frozen into icy blocks.

After epic snow and big freeze… now Madrid braced for floods
File image of a puddle in Madrid's Plaza Mayor. Photo: AFP

Now, the capital is braced for flooding with authorities battling to clear ice and debris caused by Filomena from drains before the next storm arrives.

Technicians from Madrid City Hall have identified at least 404 trouble spots across the capital that are liable to flooding when the next deluge hits on Wednesday.

A team of 320 workers have spent Monday and Tuesday inspecting drains, tunnels and sewers to clear debris caused when branches broke off tens of thousands of trees that were damaged during the snowstorm.

Added to that is the accumulation of rubbish in the streets as bins stood uncollected and overflowing with access blocked by heavy snow.

Huge piles of ice still that are still blocking pavements and covering drains will add to the risk of flooding, explained Madrid’s head of Environment and Mobility, Borja Carabante, as warmer temperatures arrive causing melting that will add to the volume of water being drained through the city.

Spain’s meteorological agency has forecast torrential rain bringing between 10 and 20 litres per square metre to the metropolitan region when the storm hits on Wednesday. That rainfall is likely to increase to 40 litres per square metre in the mountains outside Madrid.


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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.