Slow clear-up as worst snow in decades gives way to record freezing temperatures

A pedestrian resorts to using skis by Madrid's Royal Palace after the blizzard late last week.
A pedestrian resorts to using skis by Madrid's Royal Palace after the blizzard late last week. / EFE
  • Madrid and other towns and cities affected by Storm Filomena have been racing to clear roads and reopen premises in the face of the icy blast

It was all hands on deck to clear the exceptional amounts of snow that fell on Madrid and other towns and cities late last week. Forecasters said it was the worst snowfall since the early 1970s in the capital region.

With vehicles blocking roads, damage to trees and accumulated snow turning to ice as temperatures plummeted to the lowest in 60 years, even politicians joined in the neighbourhood clear-ups.

Coming in the midst of a surge in Covid-19 cases, hospitals, many with blocked entrances, were put under extra pressure. By early this week, some 2,000 people had sought medical help in Madrid after slipping on snow and ice.

Although Madrid was slowly getting back to normal by the end of the week, on Thursday the capital's mayor, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, joined many other mayors in the region in calling on the government to declare his city a Disaster Zone in order to increase the level of support available and speed up compensation claims.

As well as blocking roads, the snowfall closed Madrid's Barajas airport for a few days until last Monday and the huge Mercamadrid wholesale market until Tuesday, disrupting fresh produce supplies in the city.

Schools were also closed this week across the worst-hit areas of inland Spain and some were expected to remain shut next week as damage was assessed.

Madrid estimated on Thursday that 850 tonnes of the 9,000 tonnes of rubbish that has built up on the city's streets had been cleared.

The freezing temperature that hit much of the country after the snowfalls has prevented melting. Early on Tuesday morning, the thermometer in the tiny village of Bello, in Teruel province, got as low as -25.4º C, the lowest in a Spanish town or village since 1963.

Some main rural roads across the country stayed shut. In Andalucía, five were still closed on Thursday in higher parts of Almeria, Cadiz and Granada provinces.