Parts of Spain on red alert for what could be record-setting snowfall

Madrid has salted roads and issued warnings to prepare for snow totals unseen since the 1980s, according to the national weather service

Snow in Madrid's Retiro Park on Thursday.
Snow in Madrid's Retiro Park on Thursday.KIKE PARA

Most of Spain remained under a winter weather advisory on Friday for heavy snow and rain, gale-force winds, rough seas and low temperatures as Storm Filomena continued to sweep across the Iberian peninsula.

The Madrid region as well as the provinces of Guadalajara, Cuenca, Albacete and Toledo were on red alert, the highest of three levels, and expecting to see accumulated snowfalls of up to 20 centimeters in 24 hours. This is a highly unusual situation, as none of these areas had ever been placed on red alert for snow since a weather warning system named Meteoalerta was introduced in 2007.

A snow-covered street in Toledo, which is on red alert this Friday.
A snow-covered street in Toledo, which is on red alert this Friday.Ángeles Visdómine (EFE)

Many parts of central and northern Spain were blanketed in snow on Thursday, while overnight temperatures dipped to nearly -15ºC in places like Villablino (León). On Friday, subzero temperatures were expected in Ávila, Burgos, Salamanca, Pamplona and Valladolid, among other cities.

Intense rain and strong winds were felt in the Canary Islands, Cádiz, Málaga and the Balearic Islands on Friday. Estepona (Málaga) recorded 162 mm of rainfall, followed by San Roque (Cádiz) with 82 mm, and Candelaria (Tenerife) with 61 mm. Winds of up to 118 km/h were registered in Izaña (Santa Cruz de Tenerife). There is also a yellow alert for rain in Seville, Gran Canaria, La Palma, La Gomera, Tenerife and Ceuta.

But Rubén del Campo, spokesman for the national weather service Aemet, underscored that snow would be the big feature of the day, affecting mostly the Madrid region, Castilla-La Mancha, eastern Extremadura, southern Aragón, non-coastal areas of the Valencia region and Murcia, and eastern Andalusia.

By Saturday Filomena will be over the Mediterranean, bringing increased precipitation to the area due to the combination of cold air and humid winds. There will be an 80% chance of snow across most non-coastal locations.

Although the stormy conditions are expected to subside over the weekend as the low-pressure system moves north, the cold weather could extend into next week. Cities like Soria and Teruel could see lows of -10ºC, and in Madrid, Wednesday could bring thermometer readings of -11ºC. If so, it would break the record set on January 16, 1945, when the weather station at Retiro Park registered -10.11 ºC.

Record snowfall in Madrid?

People playing with the snow in Cerro del Tío Pío Park on Thursday.
People playing with the snow in Cerro del Tío Pío Park on Thursday.Jesús Hellín (Europa Press)

In the Spanish capital, Storm Filomena could leave behind the biggest snowfall in many decades. Del Campo said that between Friday and Saturday Madrid could see more snow than at any time since the 1980s.

Madrid Mayor José Luis Martínez Almeida said that the city is ready for the 20 centimeters of snow that have been forecast, but admitted that it will create “great difficulties.” Municipal workers have already spread over 350,000 kilograms of salt and 75,000 liters of salt brine on roads to prevent them from icing over.

Other municipalities in the Madrid region, where there were flurries on Thursday, have also taken steps to prepare for the snowy conditions. Authorities are also asking people not to drive to the mountains north of the capital because of the risk of avalanches.

Travel disruption

A snowplow at work in Murcia, where seven roads have been affected by Storm Filomena.
A snowplow at work in Murcia, where seven roads have been affected by Storm Filomena. Servicio Ilustrado (Automático) (Europa Press)

The storm, which reached Spain on Wednesday, has caused at least one fatality and created significant travel disruption. The cold weather is being blamed for the death of a homeless man in Calatayud (Zaragoza) who was found by the local police. On Thursday the stormy conditions halted most maritime transit between the North African exclave city of Ceuta and Algeciras (Cádiz), while a recreational yacht sank at the local marina. High-speed trains experienced delays due to slower speeds on the Madrid-Seville and Madrid-Valencia/Alicante lines, flights were canceled in the Canary Islands, and around 200 roads were affected by cuts and dangerous driving conditions.

On Friday morning, 267 main roads were experiencing weather-related problems and 36 secondary roads had been cut off to transit, said the traffic authority DGT.

English version by Susana Urra.

More information

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS