Snowstorm closes Madrid airport, creates travel chaos

A person waits for the bus amid heavy snowfall in Madrid, Spain

Heavy snowfall from Storm Filomena left hundreds of drivers trapped in their cars on Friday as roads were blocked and Madrid airport was closed.

The M-30 and M-40 motorways near Madrid were among more than 400 roads where snow hindered vehicles, traffic authorities said. Citizens were asked to avoid non-essential travel.

Thousands of drivers were trapped inside their cars or trucks in Madrid, unable to move on the icy roads.

“I drove to see my husband in hospital and have been stuck here for three hours. It’s a journey which should take 15 minutes,” a woman told Spanish television RNE from her car.

The Red Cross took food to trapped lorry drivers on the A4 in Madrid.

“Owing to the adverse meteorological conditions, flights are being diverted from Madrid Barajas airport. Consult your airline for the state of your flight,” Aena, which controls the country’s airports, said in a tweet.

Some welcomed the chance to have fun in the snow.

Skiers glided through Puerta del Sol in central Madrid and one man was filmed on a sled driving a pack of dogs through the streets of the capital.

Real Madrid football team, headed to Pamplona for a match against La Liga rivals Osasuna, were left waiting on a plane for four hours at Madrid airport before their flight took off.

With up to 20 cm (8 inches) of snow forecast in 24 hours and temperatures hovering around zero centigrade, the south of the Madrid region was on its highest level of alert for the first time since the system was created in 2007.

Large parks in the capital, including the Retiro next to the Prado museum, were closed as a precaution.

“I have come out to see and enjoy the snow. There is very little else to do these days (because of the pandemic),” said Juan Jose, 24, a marketing executive, outside Retiro Park.

High-speed rail services between Madrid and the southeastern cities of Alicante and Valencia were suspended.

A record temperature of -35.6C was recorded at Vega de Lourdes in Leon, northern Spain, the State Meteorological Agency (Aemet) said.

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