As the snow started to pile up Friday night, transportation became impossible, with airports shut down, train services canceled and over 1,000 motorists trapped in their cars on major roadways around Madrid, according to the Associated Press.
The storm, officially named Storm Filomena, is the result of a strong low pressure system full of Atlantic Ocean moisture clashing with an anomalously cold air mass with origins in Siberia and essentially stalling out over the Iberian Peninsula.
No parts of the country were immune to the resulting extreme weather. In addition to the record snowfall across Madrid, up to seven inches of rain fell in the southern part of the country, where two people died when their car was swept away by flash flooding. Meanwhile, a record low temperature of minus-32 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded at Vega de Lourdes in Leon in northern Spain.
As much as 20 inches of snow fell in some of the suburbs of Madrid, with widespread amounts of 8 to 12 inches, easily making Filomena the biggest snowstorm to hit the region since 1971.
Madrid was placed on red alert for snow, the most severe level since a new storm advisory system was implemented in 2007. The country’s AEMET weather agency called the storm “exceptional and most likely historic,” according to Reuters.
Many residents took to social media to share their delight at the rare wintry scene that greeted them Saturday morning. And with the country already under strict coronavirus regulations, the historic snowfall seemed to provide a bit of joy in an otherwise gloomy start to 2021.
“I have come out to see and enjoy the snow. There is very little else to do these days [because of the pandemic],” Juan Jose, a Madrid resident, told Reuters.
A viral social media video even showed dogs pulling a sled along a snowbound Madrid street:
Despite some of the lighthearted images shared on social media, the situation in Madrid and much of the country remains quite serious.
As of Saturday evening, the government was warning people to stay at home and off the roads as emergency services scramble to clear roads and continue to rescue stranded motorists.
Madrid’s Barajas Airport has remained closed since Friday night, train service to and from the capital is unlikely to be restored until Monday, and schools and universities will remain closed through at least Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.
After nearly two straight days of precipitation, Filomena will slowly weaken and shift off to the south early on Sunday, brining additional heavy snow to the Italian Alps, where the same storm system has been dumping feet of snow. But residents shouldn’t expect the snow that fell to melt anytime soon. An Arctic air mass will reinforce itself over Spain and much of southern Europe next week, bringing several days of below-freezing temperatures.
Find more scenes from the storm from social media below...