Friday, January 8th 2021, 9:17 am - Historic snowstorm underway in Madrid could be the biggest in many resident's lifetimes
MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's capital Madrid and much of the neighbouring 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 Filomena.
Such events are rare in the region and tend to be disruptive to daily life and mobility, coming at a time when people are returning home after Christmas and New Year holidays. This year, however, there is less traffic than usual due to restrictions to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
As heavy snow started falling, auhtorities said large parks in Madrid, including the famous Retiro next to the Prado museum, would be closed from Friday afternoon as a precaution.
FILE PHOTO: People have a snowball fight outside the Royal Palace during a snowfall in Madrid, Spain January 7, 2021. REUTERS/Susana Vera/File Photo
With up to 20 cm (nearly 8 inches) of snow forecast in 24 hours and temperatures expected to hover around zero centigrade for much of the day, the south of the Madrid region, including the capital, is on its highest level of alert for the first time since the system was created in 2007.
Ruben del Campo, a spokesman for the State Meteorological Agency, said the city was probably facing the heaviest snowfall at least so far in the 21st century.
"Perhaps we would have to go back to the snowfall of February 1984 or to that of March 1971 to find similar precedents if the forecasts we are expecting are correct," he added.
⚠️🔴 Se confirma que las nevadas podrán ser históricas tras la llegada de los Reyes Magos— Eltiempo.es (@ElTiempoes) January 4, 2021
❄️❄️ La mayor parte del país estará bajo la nieve a partir del jueves. Podrán darse acumulados de más de 20 centímetros en amplias zonas del interiorhttps://t.co/dNq8teJaQ4 pic.twitter.com/ORYrdmmQHK
Light snow already blanketed Madrid on Thursday, a day after Spain registered the lowest temperature ever recorded on the Iberian peninsula, of -34.1C, in the Pyrenees in the north.
The storm Filomena is advancing through Spain after hitting the Canary Islands with strong winds and rain.
In Gran Canaria, a ferry with 59 passengers and 17 crew ran aground on Thursday night due to the strong winds when entering the port of Agaete.
On Friday the coastguard were towing the ferry to the port, with passengers and crew still onboard, unhurt.
(Reporting by Emma Pinedo and Cristina Sanchez, editing by Andrei Khalip and Gareth Jones)