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Snowfall in Madrid sees canceled and diverted flights after runway closed

Frosty weather conditions expected to persist across Spain as rain and snow cause havoc on the roads

Snow at Madrid’s Barajas airport on Monday.
Snow at Madrid’s Barajas airport on Monday. EL PAÍS

Snowfall across the Madrid region on Monday saw the main airport in the Spanish capital, Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas, forced to close a runway. According to a tweet sent out by airports authority AENA, three of the airport’s runways were operational, but the closure of the fourth was likely to cause delays to flights.

The cold snap that is affecting much of Spain today has seen AENA put its “Winter Plan” into action, which involves work on the runways to ensure “they do not freeze nor that the snow accumulates.”

Children play in the snow in Madrid.
Children play in the snow in Madrid.

By early afternoon all four runways were back open, but around 42 flights were canceled and six were diverted to other airports, AENA reported, from a total of 1,075 programmed for the whole day.

The intense cold front that hit Spain on Thursday is expected to last until at least Wednesday, according to the AEMET state meteorology service, which warned Spaniards to prepare for below-average temperatures, heavy rainfall and snow.

Heavy rain has been forecast for the regions of Cantabria, Aragón and Catalonia while light snow is expected to continue to fall in many areas.

AEMET has maintained alerts for snow, rain, cold, rough seas and the risk of landslides in 34 provinces. Huesca, Zaragoza, Cantabria, Catalonia, Castellón and Asturias have been issued an orange warning – the second highest in the warning system – for snowfall.

Temperatures are  forecast to drop below -5ºC in many regions

Córdoba, Granada, Jaén, Teruel, Cuenca, Guadalajara, Castilla y León, Madrid, Navarre, La Rioja and the Basque Country are under a yellow warning for snow.

In Madrid, snow fell across the province on Sunday, but only a little in the capital. This Monday five centimeters of snow are expected to fall in the mountains and two centimeters in the rest of the region, with snowfalls expected above 600-700 meters. Madrid City Hall has advised locals to leave their cars at home and use public transport, and activated the highest alert on its Winter Emergency Plan.

In the last update on the cold front, AEMET announced that “a low-pressure system was forming over the southeast peninsula” and would “deepen” until Tuesday before it “moves toward the northeast for the Balearic Islands” before leaving the country completely.

AEMET warned of “a gradual drop in temperatures,” with the mercury forecast to drop below -5ºC in many regions and down to -10ºC in places at high altitude. Temperatures may be even colder than the past two days. Last Wednesday and Thursday were the coldest days Spain has seen this winter with maximum temperatures between 10ºC and 15ºC below average.

Two people dig their car out from the snow in Navacerrada, Madrid.
Two people dig their car out from the snow in Navacerrada, Madrid.

According to AEMET the chilly weather is not part of a cold snap, and from Wednesday the weather is likely to improve.

Highway and train complications

The snow is continuing to cause traffic problems with two main highways cut off and two more closed to cars without snow chains, according to traffic authorities. The A-92 highway is cut off at the Mora port in Granada while the c-25 between Gurb (Barcelona) and Arbucies (Girona) is also closed.

A total of 274 points on the transport network have been affected by the snow, including 39 cut-off highways and 119 lanes that require snow chains. On 65 highways, trucks and combination vehicles have also been banned. Over the weekend, 15 cars were trapped by the snow on the GU-115 highway near the city of Ledanca in Guadalajara.

Service on the high-speed AVE train line has also been affected. The cold and snow has forced trains between Madrid and Barcelona and Madrid and Seville to slow speeds to 160 kilometers per hour in some areas, causing “some delays.”

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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