Saturday, January 9, 2021, will go down in history as the day that half of Spain became Norway: in cities like Madrid or Toledo, cars disappeared from the asphalt, skiers and snowmen took the roads and families got off with sleds to the streets. They were stamps never seen, or at least, not remembered since 1971, when another snowfall of the century occurred. One hundred years will also remember ‘Filomena’, who yesterday left up to 40 centimeters thick in parts of the country where snow already falls only exceptionally.
But the Christmas movie images that the storm provided had a negative counterpoint, with the whole country on different types of alerts, and red notices in Teruel, Zaragoza, Albacete, Cuenca, Guadalajara, Toledo, Tarragona, Madrid, Castellón and Valencia. In addition, ‘Filomena’ claimed three victims, two people drowned in Mijas (Málaga) and a man buried in Zarzalejo (Madrid).
The Government yesterday asked the population to stay home in the face of the worst storm in the last 50 years. The Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, requested that only trips “that are absolutely essential” be made. “And if the trip is unavoidable, I repeat, unavoidable”, Marlaska insisted, “it must be undertaken after having consulted the situation of the roads and with essential elements, such as chains.” “Minimum travel and without risks,” reiterated, in turn, the Minister of Transport, José Luis Ábalos.
The problems on the roads do not seem to be solved in a very short period of time because from tomorrow until Tuesday, after the snow, the frosts will arrive, which can cause new difficulties in circulation. “Possibly there is more risk in the ice than in the snow and it is a situation that requires a lot of caution,” insisted Ábalos, who gave his opinion on the playful images offered by the streets of some cities. “It’s good to see people enjoying themselves, but when you say you have to be at home, it is not on a whim. Mobility entails a risk of accidents and, furthermore, we are in a pandemic, “he analyzed.
The snow collapsed almost the entire country. In total, 657 roads and mountain passes were altered by time, 133 were closed and in more than 400 sections the chains or the use of snow tires were mandatory, according to the General Directorate of Traffic (DGT). In total, 19,720 kilometers affected, 1,976 cut off to circulation and 11,293 in which the use of chains was necessary.
Almeida asks the Army for help
Of the main road network, the worst incidents occurred on the M-40 in Madrid and the A-4 and A-5, near the capital. There, since Friday afternoon, 147 soldiers and 66 vehicles of the Military Emergency Unit (UME) rescued more than 1,500 people from their vehicles.
The situation in the capital Madrid was chaotic. Circulating was impossible and only emergency vehicles (ambulances, firefighters and police) could hardly move, although access to hospitals, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, was practically cut off. The vaccination continued in Madrid, where the doses were already distributed, although it created logistical problems in Catalonia.
Precisely, the Government is working so that the trucks bagged on the roads of different parts of Spain form convoys, organized by the Civil Guard, to transport food, medicine and vaccines. The security forces “will be deployed with all their capabilities,” said Grande-Marlaska., so that the vaccination campaign is not compromised. The Ministries of the Interior and Health will evaluate today the mechanisms necessary to ensure the transfer, storage and distribution of new Pfizer shipments.
Meanwhile, the mayor of the capital, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, asked the Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, for the help of the Army to remove snow from the streets and from the afternoon, members of the UME began to clear the driveways. Leaving the city was an impossible mission by road, but also by plane or train. Barajas airport has been closed since Friday night and Renfe suspended all its services in Madrid.
Meteorologists had been warning for weeks that the storm ‘Filomena’ was going to leave a situation rarely seen in Spain. PBut the forecasts have been exceeded with the unprecedented snowfalls that the center of the peninsula has experienced and the storm that has hit the Canary Islands and the South of the country. And although it may seem that normality is going to be the trend in the coming days once the atmospheric situation stabilizes, now they warn that “the worst is yet to come.”
In its last special notice this Saturday, the State Meteorological Agency (Aemet) explains that today Sunday, with the retreat of the storm towards the northeast, the snowfall will be remitting, although not the rainfall in some areas of the country. “On Sunday and Monday some heavy rains are still likely in southern Andalusia and Ceuta due to the approach of a new storm”, the agency points out.
Aemet also augurs new and more serious problems especially communication from tomorrow Monday, when «a general stabilization of the atmosphere is likely to take place, keeping temperatures very low, which will cause pThe snow cover persists in large areas of the Peninsula and will also lead to exceptionally low minimum temperatures. ‘ This situation will occur from January 11 in large areas of the interior of the peninsula, until Thursday January 14 inclusive, with a “very high” degree of probability (greater than 80%), they emphasize.
Specifically, the agency foresees that from the early hours of this Sunday to Monday «a marked decrease in night temperatures will begin, which will continue the following night, with strong frosts in large areas of the interior and minimum temperatures that will be lower than -10ºC in mountain areas and flat areas with snowy surfaces “, which will affect” points where this circumstance is very rare ” . In some areas the maximums will remain “very short”, barely exceeding 0ºC, or even falling below that record.
From the early hours of Tuesday to Wednesday a notable rise in temperatures will begin, especially at night, which will continue the following days, especially in mountain areas, although the frosts will still be important in flat areas of the center, both early Wednesday and Thursday 14.
Although the early morning from Thursday to Friday the 15th it is likely that the frosts will continue in the interior of the peninsula, “these will be less severe, which could conclude the episode that gave rise to the special warning,” says Aemet.
His forecast is shared by meteorologist José Antonio Maldonado. «TAfter the storm the frosts will arrive, causing complicated situations on the roads and, in addition, in the center of the Peninsula the temperatures will plummet, in some cases below 10 degrees below zero ”, he explains.
The situation will worsen in the long term due to the consequences of heavy snowfall. “This will bring another problem, the melting of snow, which may bring river overflows,” predicts Maldonado, who recommends “caution” due to the “danger” posed by ice sheets, especially on secondary roads. The meteorologist does not hesitate to describe this situation as “historical”.