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 was closed.
The M-30 and M-40 motorways near Madrid were among more than 400 roads where snow hindered vehicles, traffic authorities said. Citizens were asked to avoid non-essential travel because of the highly unusual blizzard.
“I drove to see my husband in hospital and have been stuck here for three hours. It’s a journey which should take 15 minutes,” a woman told Spanish television RNE from her car.
Meteorologists expected Friday’s snowfall to total 20 cm (8 inches), and temperatures hovered around freezing. The Red Cross took food to trapped lorry drivers on the A4 in Madrid.
“Owing to the adverse meteorological conditions, flights are being diverted from Madrid Barajas airport. Consult your airline for the state of your flight,” Aena, which controls the country’s airports, said in a tweet.
Some welcomed the chance to have fun in the snow.
Skiers glided through the Puerta del Sol plaza in central Madrid, and a social media video showed a man on a sled driving a pack of dogs through the streets of the capital.
Real Madrid football team, headed to Pamplona for a match against La Liga rivals Osasuna, were left waiting on a plane for four hours at Madrid airport before their flight took off.
Madrid and eight provinces were under the most severe weather advisory for the first time since the system was created in 2007.
Large parks in the capital, including the Retiro next to the Prado museum, were closed as a precaution.
“I have come out to see and enjoy the snow. There is very little else to do these days (because of the pandemic),” said Juan Jose, 24, a marketing executive, outside Retiro Park.
High-speed rail services between Madrid and the southeastern cities of Alicante and Valencia were suspended.
A record temperature of -35.6 degrees C (-32 degrees Fahrenheit) was recorded at Vega de Lourdes in Leon, northern Spain, the State 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)