MADRID (Reuters) – The Spanish capital Madrid and much of the neighboring region of Castilla-La Mancha were on high alert on Friday for what meteorologists expect to be the heaviest snowfall in decades brought by the storm Philomena.
Such events are rare in the region and tend to disrupt daily life and mobility, coming at a time when people are returning home after the Christmas and New Year holidays. This year, however, there is less traffic than usual due to restrictions on limiting the coronavirus pandemic.
As it began to snow heavily, authorities said large parks in Madrid, including the famous Retiro next to the Prado Museum, would be closed as a precautionary measure from Friday afternoon.
With a snow forecast of up to 20 cm (nearly 8 inches) in 24 hours and temperatures expected to hover around zero degrees Celsius for most of the day, the south of the Madrid region, including the capital, is at its highest readiness level for the first time since the system was set up in 2007
Ruben del Campo, a spokesman for the State Meteorological Agency, said the city was likely to face the heaviest snowfall at least so far in the 21
“We may have to go back to the snowfall in February 1984 or to the March 1971 snowfall to find similar precedents if the predictions we expect are correct,” he added.
Light snow has already covered Madrid on Thursday, a day after Spain recorded the lowest temperature ever recorded on the Iberian Peninsula, -34.1 ° C, in the northern Pyrenees.
Storm Philomena advanced through Spain after hitting the Canary Islands with strong winds and rain.
In Gran Canaria, a ferry with 59 passengers and 17 crews flooded on Thursday night due to strong winds entering the port of Agaete.
On Friday, the Coast Guard towed the ferry to the port, with passengers and crew still on board unharmed.
(This story is corrected with Philomena’s Spanish spelling)
Report by Emma Pinedo and Christina Sanchez, edited by Andrei Khalip and Gareth Jones