Ten regions on alert for snow as early winter storm hits Spain

Temperatures are forecast to fall across most of the Spanish mainland, with heavy rainfall and large swells also expected in some areas

The Puerto de Navacerrada ski station in the Guadarrama Mountains on November 4.
The Puerto de Navacerrada ski station in the Guadarrama Mountains on November 4.Rafael Bastante (Europa Press)

Ten Spanish regions were on alert for snowfall on Tuesday as the country braced for the brunt of the first winter storm of the season.

The storm – which arrived on Monday, 10 days before the meteorological start of winter – is caused by the “arrival of a mass of cold air from high altitudes that has triggered a sudden drop in temperatures,” said Rubén del Campo, the spokesperson of Spain’s national weather agency Aemet. According to Del Campo, this mass of cold air has also brought about a slow-moving storm system, known officially as an upper-level isolated depression (DANA) but more popularly known in Spain as a gota fría, or literally cold drop.

On Tuesday, Aragón, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León and La Rioja were placed on orange alert for snowfall, which is the second-highest in Aemet’s three-tiered warning system. Asturias, Cantabria, Catalonia, the north of Madrid, Navarre and the Valencia region are on yellow alert, which is the lowest.

In the last 24 hours, snow has been falling at increasingly low altitudes, with snow recorded Monday night at 800 meters in the northmost part of the country. According to Spain’s traffic authority DTG, traffic restrictions were introduced on close to 750 kilometers of roads in 10 provinces, mostly in the north of Spain, due to the buildup of snow.

Torrential rain, large swells and strong winds were also forecast on Tuesday in parts of Spain. Six regions – Aragón, Asturias, the Balearic Islands, Galicia, Catalonia and Valencia – were on alert for heavy rainfall, with up to 40 millimeters per hour expected. Asturias, Catalonia and Galicia received warnings for large swells of up to five meters, while Catalonia was put on alert for wind gusts of up to 80 kilometers per hour. Catalonia, which is on red alert for rainfall, and the Valencia region were also issued warnings for storms.

Temperatures were also forecast to drop across the Spanish mainland, with the exception of Galicia. Readings on thermometers are expected to fall below 10ºC in up to 22 provincial capitals, with Ávila set to see highs of just 3ºC.

The wintry weather is forecast to continue throughout the week, with a new storm expected to hit Spain on Thursday. The Canary Islands, which are located off the coast of northwestern Africa, are set to be largely unaffected, although heavy rainfall is forecast from Thursday, particularly in the western part of the archipelago.

What a hailstorm! A strong storm at dawn has hit with great intensity in the inland areas of Vega Baja, in Elche, as well as the city of Alicante. From there, Miguel Tagres has sent us these amazing images of streets filled with water and hail.

According to Del Campo, Tuesday will be “the most adverse day of this winter episode.” On Wednesday, snow is expected to fall in the same regions, but with less intensity, while maximum temperatures will begin to rise. Torrential rain is also forecast to continue in Cantabria and the east of Catalonia. On Thursday, the storm is forecast to be replaced by another one from the north, with heavy rainfall expected to continue until Friday. In the northern half of the Spanish mainland, there could be snow at altitudes of 700 meters. The cold temperatures are also expected to continue over the weekend.

The drop in temperatures from the early winter storm has been sudden and significant, especially in inland areas of mainland Spain, where the maximum fell by six and eight degrees on Monday with respect to Sunday, said Del Campo. In the Sierra Nevada mountain range in southern Spain, temperatures fell to -12ºC in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The storm has also led to torrential rain in Alicante province in the Valencia region and in the south of Catalonia. Tarragona province recorded 67 millimeters of rain per hour on Monday, with 125 liters falling between midnight and Tuesday at 8am. This made Monday the rainiest day of November since 1920. A strong hailstorm also hit the cities of Alicante and Elche.

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