Around 220 motorists had to be rescued from Spanish roads on Wednesday night as low temperatures and snow made driving conditions increasingly dangerous.
Hundreds of cars were trapped on the A-67 and N-611 highways between Cantabria and Palencia, in northern Spain. Stranded occupants were rescued by members of the Emergency Military Unit (UME) and the Civil Guard, said a spokesman for the law enforcement agency.
Dozens of military mountain vehicles and snowplows were deployed throughout the area, where both roads remained closed to traffic on Thursday morning between the municipalities of Arenas de Iguña (Palencia) and Santillana de Campos (Cantabria).
Other national and secondary roads throughout the country experienced traffic cuts while plunging temperatures brought snowfall that left entire villages isolated. Thousands of children stayed home from school on Wednesday and on Thursday morning, 200 families from the Basque province of Bizkaia remained without electricity after power cuts left 5,000 homes in the dark. Some locations recorded temperatures of -15ºC and 40 centimeters of snowfall.
Rail services between Asturias and León were suspended for the second day in a row on Thursday, and no alternative road route is available due to the adverse weather conditions, according to rail operator Renfe’s website.
Meanwhile, police are investigating whether bad weather was involved in the death of a 49-year-old driver whose car plunged off a 35-meter-high bridge near Santa María de la Alameda, in the Madrid region, at 9.15am on Thursday.
The AEMET national weather service is warning that the cold spell will “get worse” on Friday, with temperatures due to hit lows on Saturday and Sunday. Twenty provinces remain on alert for cold weather.
Besides the low temperatures, mountain locations are on yellow alert for avalanches – a cross-country skier has already been killed by one in the Pyrenees – and parts of the Mediterranean coast are bracing for waves of up to eight meters. Strong winds of up to 90km/h are expected in northern Andalusia, Aragón and parts of Catalonia and the Valencia region.
This is Spain’s first cold snap in three years.