The mountain areas of Malaga province were covered in white earlier this week as snow fell on higher ground, making access to remote areas difficult and causing widespread disruption, as well as amazement as families and amateur photographers came out to enjoy the unusual weather. It was the harshest spell of weather seen so far this winter.
At the weekend it snowed across the entire mountainous arc that borders the province from the Ronda mountain range and the Sierra de las Nieves in the west to the peaks of Tejeda, Alhama and Almijara in the Axarquía to the east.
The snow was also accompanied by a dramatic fall in the temperature to below zero in Ronda and other mountain towns and villages.
On Monday morning the Spanish meteorological agency Aemet raised the yellow warning to amber in the Ronda area and there were yellow alerts for snow in force in the Antequera area as more than 10 cm of snow fell, restricting road access and trapping dozens of vehicles. Drivers in the area were advised to wrap up warm, take suitable footwear and a raincoat, and a bag with water, food, and a charged mobile phone.
Access to El Torcal in Antequera was still closed to traffic until Wednesday after officials stated the heavy build-up of snow and icy patches on local roads had made the roads unsafe for vehicle access. The El Torcal visitor centre was also closed.
From Saturday through to Monday, the Junta de Andalucía sent out around 20 clearance vehicles carrying 70 road maintenance staff to clear the worst of the snow and to spread salt to prevent accidents. Their main priority was to keep the mains roads in and out of Ronda operation, especially the A-396 (to Algeciras) and the A-366 which connects Ronda to the Sierra de las Nieves via Yunquera and El Burgo.
Though access to the Sierra de la Nieves was difficult via Ronda, the natural park still attracted a number of visitors from the coast via San Pedro, including many tourists, keen to enjoy the Día de Reyes in the snow. This road too was eventually closed on Monday.
Highest parts of the province
On the eastern side of the province, the highest municipalities, Alfarnate and Alfarnatejo, in the upper Axarquía, saw snow as thick as 5cm settle on the ground but the use of gritting machines meant that neither chains on tyres nor road closures were necessary.
Cold on the Costa too
Meanwhile, the snow didn't quite reach the Costa del Sol, but it was at least visible on the top of the mountains inland. A white layer had settled on the Montes de Málaga natural park overlooking Malaga city at the Fuente de la Reina viewpoint.
Instead, coastal areas experienced heavy rain and hail and a notable drop in temperatures. In the city of Malaga maximum temperatures ranged from 7 to 11ºC, in Vélez from 4 to 12º C, and in Marbella between 8 and 12º C.
Temperatures rose once more by Wednesday but meteorologists warn that cold and wet weather could return for the weekend.
During the course of the cold snap, no serious accidents nor casualties were reported.
Good news for agriculture
Despite the inconvenience for many motorists, the rain and snow came as a welcome relief for both growers and the province's reservoirs.
In the Axarquía, where drought restrictions are already in place, the heavy rain has irrigated land as well as replenishing stocks at La Viñuela reservoir, according to the association for young farmers (Asaja). They say that the precipitation has not damaged any crops too much. The snow too, it is hoped, will have a positive effect as it melts and increases water flow in aquifers.