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Historic snow blankets eastern Spain


Eastern Spain is experiencing an extremely rare winter weather for this region since Wednesday, January 18, 2017, when parts of the region saw their first snow in 90 years. Through Friday, January 20, at least 3 000 people became stranded on roads due to heavy snow. Snow is not so rare in central Spain and higher ground, but on the east coast, it happened just a few times in the past 100 years.

Meteorologist Danny Høgsholt described the event as historic. "Extremely rare snow is falling across the southern and eastern coast of Spain. In some cases, it is the first snow in 90 years," he said Wednesday.

In Torrevieja, just east of Murcia, the snow was first since December 2, 1926. Before that, the city saw snow on January 2, 1914. "So, it is only the second time in 100 years that the city experienced snow," Høgsholt said. The average temperature there in January is 16.2 °C (61.6 °F).

On Thursday, January 19, the city of Murcia saw its largest snow accumulation since 1983, although just a few centimeters. For Murcia, the average high temperature in January is 16.6 °C (61.9 °F), the average low is 4.7 °C (40.5 °F). That day, however, the temperature was just above 0 °C (32 °F). It started snowing before midday and kept going for three hours.

Further south, the coastal city of Cartagena saw its first snow in 80 years. It snowed in Cartagena only three times in history, in 1914, 1926 and 1939, but not since. 

According to the Murcia Today, the snow started to spread along the coastal areas from Alicante fairly early Wednesday morning, and national TV was filled with images of thick snow along the beaches of Costa Blanca. It crept slowly along the coast into Murcia, falling in San Petro del Pintar and San Javier, and slightly further inland, before finally reaching the city of Murcia and then Cartagena, just before lunchtime.

The urban beaches of Cala Cortina, parts of La Manga del Mar Menor and Cabo de Palos were slowly cloaked in white, and although the snow settled for just a brief period before turning into sleet, it was enough to send most of the city outside to capture the first snow in the city for 80 years.

While many took the opportunity to enjoy the rare event, substantial snow and travel problems occurred through Friday, January 20 in other parts of eastern Spain. The heaviest snow was registered in the Sierra Nevada and northward to the Iberian Chain. A total of 44 cm (17.3 inches) of snow was measured in the village of Fuente de la Sabina today.

The Associated Press reported today that some 2 000 people were trapped overnight in vehicles as heavy snowfall cut off several roads in eastern Spain. "The army's emergency unit said Friday it was distributing blankets and hot drinks to hundreds of people trapped on the A3 highway linking Madrid to the coastal city of Valencia and on other roads in the region. Soldiers and firefighters used snowplows to try to clear the snow, managing to open A3 traffic toward Valencia although it remained blocked toward Madrid."

AEMET said more snow is expected today.

Featured image: Historic snow blankets Torrevieja. Credit: Miguel Angel, Enrique y Victor

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