Rare snowstorm closes Madrid airport and creates travel chaos


MADRID (Reuters) – Heavy snowfall from Storm Filomena left thousands of Spanish drivers trapped in their cars on Friday as roads were blocked and Madrid airport closed.

The M-30 and M-40 highways near Madrid were among more than 400 roads where snow hampered vehicles, traffic authorities said. Citizens have been urged to avoid non-essential travel due to the very unusual blizzard.

“I drove to see my husband at the hospital and was stuck here for three hours. It’s a journey that should take 15 minutes, ”a woman told Spanish TV RNE from her car.

Meteorologists expected Friday’s snowfall to total 20 cm (8 inches) and temperatures to hover around zero. The Red Cross brought food to the truck drivers trapped on the A4 in Madrid.

“Due to adverse weather conditions, flights are being diverted from Madrid Barajas airport. Check with your airline for the status of your flight, ”said Aena, who controls the country’s airports, in a tweet.

Some people appreciated the chance to have fun in the snow.

Skiers slid down Puerta del Sol square in central Madrid, and a video on social media showed a man on a sled leading a pack of dogs through the streets of the capital.

The Real Madrid football team, headed to Pamplona for a game against Osasuna, their La Liga rivals, were left waiting on a plane for four hours at Madrid airport before their flight took off.

Madrid and eight provinces were subjected to the most severe weather advisory for the first time since the system was created in 2007.

The capital’s large parks, including the Retiro next to the Prado Museum, have been closed as a precaution.

“I came to see and appreciate the snow. There’s not much else to do these days (due to the pandemic), ”said Juan Jose, 24, a marketing manager outside Retiro Park.

High-speed rail services between Madrid and the south-eastern cities of Alicante and Valencia have been suspended.

A record temperature of -35.6 degrees C (-32 degrees Fahrenheit) was recorded at Vega de Lourdes in León, in northern Spain, the National Meteorological Agency (Aemet) said.

Reporting by Graham Keeley Emma Pinedo and Cristina Sanchez, editing by Andrei Khalip, Gareth Jones, Andrew Heavens, David Gregorio, Sonya Hepinstall and Cynthia Osterman


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