Spain’s Worst Snowstorm in Decades Collapses Parts of the Country

Spain’s Worst Snowstorm in Decades Collapses Parts of the Country
People walk on the snow next to the Royal Palace during heavy snowfall on January 09, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez, Getty Images)
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Snow has the bad habit of completely collapsing regions that aren’t used to experiencing it. In this case, Storm Filomena slammed into Spain and blanketed many of its regions, including its capital, with more snow than they had seen in decades.

Despite having been forecast as a red alert storm, the highest in the country’s warning system, Filomena took many regions by complete surprise. The central Madrid region, which bears the same name as the capital, was especially hard hit. On Saturday, images from its streets made their way across the country and the globe.

In the following slideshow, we’ll go through how Spain has coped with the snow, and what challenges it still has left in the coming days.

Filomena Began Light, Then Promptly Blanketed Parts of the Country

People walk amid a heavy snowfall in Madrid on January 9, 2021. (Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP, Getty Images) People walk amid a heavy snowfall in Madrid on January 9, 2021. (Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP, Getty Images)

Although Filomena initially began with light snow on Thursday, it blanketed many of Spain’s regions with snow on Friday, leading to serious disruptions on nearly 400 roads, the Associated Press reported. By Saturday, local news outlet ABC stated that 657 roads and ports had been affected by the storm, of which 133 had been blocked by the snow. In total, this affected at least 19,719 km of road on Saturday.

Madrid received about 50 centimetres of snow between Friday and Saturday, the most since 1971, the state weather agency said. To date, it has been blamed for four deaths in the country.

Filomena Stranded 1,500 People on Spain’s Highways

Firefighters help vehicles stuck in the M30 ring road in Madrid due to a heavy snowstorm on January 8, 2021.  (Photo: Oscar Del Pozo/AFP, Getty Images) Firefighters help vehicles stuck in the M30 ring road in Madrid due to a heavy snowstorm on January 8, 2021. (Photo: Oscar Del Pozo/AFP, Getty Images)

The storm also left about 1,500 people stranded on the country’s highways. Outlet El País highlighted that these people spent Friday night in their vehicle without food and adequate clothing. Some counted on the heaters in their cars, while others braved Filomena without it. There were people stuck on the highway that hardly had any gas and had to ration what little they had left. By Saturday, all of the people stranded had been rescued by the country’s emergency and military services.

It Shut Down the Madrid Airport…

Cars are blocked on the snow as people walk past along the M-30 road during heavy snowfall on January 09, 2021 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez, Getty Images) Cars are blocked on the snow as people walk past along the M-30 road during heavy snowfall on January 09, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez, Getty Images)

In the capital, Madrid, Filomena forced the closure of the Barajas Airport because of the ice and snow on the runway. The last plane to leave the airport was the one transporting the Real Madrid soccer team, which was travelling to Pamplona in northern Spain to play against Osasuna. On Saturday, the airport said it had rerouted 17 planes to other airports, affecting about 2,900 passengers. The conditions left dozens of people stranded at the airport since Friday, some of which had to sleep on the floor and complained that they weren’t given hardly anything to eat.

As of Sunday, the airport had reopened for departures, with Spanish officials saying that the complete reopening would take place gradually.

… And Turned the City Into a Ghost Town for Cars

People walk on the snow along Calle de Segovia during heavy snowfall on January 09, 2021 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez, Getty Images) People walk on the snow along Calle de Segovia during heavy snowfall on January 09, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez, Getty Images)

Besides collapsing the country’s roads and closing down its main airport, Filomena also rendered the capital practically a ghost town for vehicles. Many were littered the streets, abandoned by their owners who couldn’t move them through the snow. This applied to city buses as well, which were left empty in different corners of the city.

Yet Others Delighted in the Snow

A man throws a snowball at Plaza Mayor during heavy snowfall on January 09, 2021 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez, Getty Images) A man throws a snowball at Plaza Mayor during heavy snowfall on January 09, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez, Getty Images)

Nonetheless, although the storm undoubtedly created chaos for government officials and many residents throughout Spain, others delighted in the snow and took to the streets to enjoy it, despite public officials pleading for them to stay home unless absolutely necessary.

Is This Madrid or Is This Narnia?

A woman walks along a street covered with snow during heavy snowfall on January 09, 2021 in Alcorcón, near Madrid, Spain.  (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez, Getty Images) A woman walks along a street covered with snow during heavy snowfall on January 09, 2021 in Alcorcón, near Madrid, Spain. (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez, Getty Images)

Some remarked that they weren’t sure if they lived in Madrid or in Narnia. Others took out their skies and winter clothes and treated the capital like a giant slope. In the city centre, dozens took part in a massive snowball fight that required police interference to break up. The videos of the snowball fights went viral on social media, although some people criticised that some of the participants did not have face masks, did not respect social distancing measures, and were in fact having a snowball fight during a pandemic.

There Were Raves and a Sled Pulled by Huskies

People make a big snowball at Las Ventas during heavy snowfall on January 09, 2021 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez, Getty Images) People make a big snowball at Las Ventas during heavy snowfall on January 09, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez, Getty Images)

The Puerta del Sol plaza also saw something incredible: a giant rave of people dancing to popular songs. In the Hortaleza neighbourhood, a video of a man with a sled being pulled by five huskies also went viral. There were also, of course, numerous snowmen across the city.

Not to Be a Downer, But This All Happened During a Pandemic

A tree has fallen on top of a car during heavy snowfall on January 09, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez, Getty Images) A tree has fallen on top of a car during heavy snowfall on January 09, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez, Getty Images)

As a Madrid resident, I am not opposed to safely enjoying the snow when possible, however, I must admit that the sight of dozens upon dozens of people gathered closely together during a pandemic made me very nervous. Rising coronavirus cases in the region, which in recent weeks have totaled 452.19 cases on average for every 100,000 residents, forced authorities to partially lock down 1.2 million residents on Friday.

Climate Ignorance Also Made Headlines

People walk amid a heavy snowfall in Madrid on January 9, 2021. (Photo: Benjamin Cremel/AFP, Getty Images) People walk amid a heavy snowfall in Madrid on January 9, 2021. (Photo: Benjamin Cremel/AFP, Getty Images)

Unfortunately, it’s become commonplace for some to take a look at or experience extreme weather and say, hey, climate change is not that bad. That’s exactly what the regional president of Aragón, Javier Lambán, said on Twitter, which sparked outrage.

“By the look of the images of Storm Filomena, it doesn’t seem like climate change is going to necessarily mean that snow will disappear. Last year was very bountiful for our mountains in this sense,” he wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

Experts criticised the president, and said that climate change didn’t mean that we were always going to have warm temperatures, but that we were going to have extreme weather, which is what happened with Filomena. It’s worth mentioning that one big snowstorm does not mean climate change is cancelled. In case you needed a sad reminder, 2020 was the hottest year in human history.

Now, Time to Cleanup

A truck-mounted snowblower works at Plaza de Cibeles a day after the heaviest snowfall in decades on January 10, 2021 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez, Getty Images) A truck-mounted snowblower works at Plaza de Cibeles a day after the heaviest snowfall in decades on January 10, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez, Getty Images)

Although snowfall stopped in many regions on Sunday, which brought some respite to many parts of the country, Spain still isn’t out of the woods yet. The country is expecting a week of extreme cold, which will turn the snow on the ground into ice, thereby increasing the risk of accidents. Other regions are still on alert for snowfall.

The Spanish army on Sunday focused on clearing access to Madrid’s food distribution centres and hospitals. On a national level, the country is taking extra measures to ensure that the weekly shipment of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine on Monday reaches regional health authorities, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, the interior minister, said, per the AP.

In Madrid, authorities said the region won’t return to normal until the end of next week.